I love chestnuts. They're less common as street food these days, but I remember traveling to New York City around the holidays as a child, and getting them whole roasted from street vendors. These days, my favorite recipe is Whole Braised Chestnuts on page 519 of Julia Child's classic cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. They're excellent with duck, or ideally, goose.
But peeling chestnuts is a terrible job, and the pre-peeled jarred chestnuts never match the taste of the fresh ones. Chestnuts have both an outside shell (called a pericarp) and an inside skin (called a pellicle). So, they have to be de-shelled (fairly easy) and then decorticated (horrible fingertip-mangling job). Regarding decortication, Child says: "Peeling off the inside skin is a chore whatever method you adopt". It's also difficult to do without accidentally breaking the chestnut into pieces.
Maybe I just didn't have the correct tool? Here's a pair of French chestnut decortication shoes. I'm sure my wife wouldn't mind me wearing these shoes in the house:
Anyone know a better trick? I've tried searching Google Patents for terms like decortication, but I'm not seeing anything good so far. How is this done commercially? I see some chestnut-peeling machines on YouTube, but I wonder if this can be reasonably done with a homemade tool.
Châtaigne et marron : l'ethnobotanique du Châtaignier â€” Département de Biologie (English translation)