These tender, starchy nuts work wonders in sweet and savory dishes. Buy firm, plump, shiny nuts, and store them in a cool, dry place. They're also available precooked and canned, bottled, or vacuum-packed; puréed (often sweetened); and ground into flour.

To roast whole chestnuts, score an X on the smooth end; cook at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, or until peeling and browned. Cool slightly, then remove shells and skin.

Purée cooked, unsweetened chestnuts with chicken or vegetable stock until velvety; add to any soup for rich body and creamy flavor.

Sauté chopped cooked chestnuts and garlic in butter and wine; toss with steamed or roasted brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, or sweet potatoes.

To make chestnut cream, combine 3/4 pound cooked chestnuts with 1 cup sugar and 2 cups water; simmer until liquid is mostly gone, then purée with a bit of vanilla or almond extract. Layer in parfait glasses with pumpkin bread and chopped dried cranberries.