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Sometimes it is easier to chestnut-x if you place the chestnut so the flatter side is down. Then start the x (or ><, or four lines if that is easier for you) with the very tip of the knife. (If you are really accident prone, you can consider holding the chestnut down with a pair of pliers with your nondominant hand while you tip of the knife with dominant hand.) I agree with you; sometimes x-ing the chestnut is the most difficult step. NOTE: Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living recommends the opposite: she says to x the flat side, as does Joy of Cooking. But I hate a wobbling chestnut when I am trying to x it.
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