Friday, November 21, 2008

Silky Chestnut Soup

The next Thanksgiving recipe from last weekend's cooking extravaganza is this easy, healthy chestnut soup. I love chestnuts, and now that they are easy to find pre-roasted in jars, cans or vacuum packs, you can enjoy them without the doing the roasting yourself.

Several years ago, I got the notion to roast some fresh chestnuts and nearly blinded myself. I forgot to cut slits in the skin to let the air out, so the nuts exploded in my face when I took the baking sheet out of the oven. It was harrowing (and really funny, after the shock). Suffice it to say, I don't roast chestnuts anymore.

But I love them as much as ever. They go in one of my favorite stuffings and they are great with Brussels sprouts. A lot of recipes for chestnut soup use cream, but this one gets a silky texture simply from pureeing the chestnuts with onions, leeks and chicken broth. There are a few other ingredients but that's basically it.

We had a lot of ideas about how to play around with this soup. Instead of brandy, you could use sherry or fruit brandy. You could add milk to give it some creaminess and lighten the color. You could garnish it with creme fraiche (as much as I love using Greek yogurt as a garnish, the creme fraiche would be just right in this particular case). Speaking of garnish, the chopped chestnuts that turn crispy from a quick saute are delicious, so don't skip that step!

Silky Chestnut Soup
Adapted from this recipe by Alex Urena for Food & Wine magazine

Serves 4 as a first course

3 tablespoons canola oil
One 14-ounce vacuum-packed jar of cooked and peeled chestnuts (2 1/2 cups)
1 medium onion, minced
1 leek, white and tender green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 teaspoons honey
4 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth (or vegetable broth)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 7 of the chestnuts and cook until crisp and browned, stirring often. Remove from pan and cool. Finely chop and set aside.

Add the onion and leeks to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the honey and stir well. Add the broth and remaining chestnuts, cover, and simmer 10 minutes.

Puree soup in a blender, working in batches. Taste for seasoning. May be covered and refrigerated at this point for 24 hours. To serve, return soup to the pot and reheat. Add the brandy or Cognac, and garnish with reserved chopped chestnuts and parsley.


FOODalogue: Meandering Meals and Travels said...

that sounds luscious!

Mark Scarbrough said...

Lovely. I can't wait to make it. I think I'll serve it in shot glasses and drizzle a little roasted hazelnut oil over it on Thanksgiving. A wonderful idea.

Matt said...

Exploding chestnuts would have been enough to keep me from roasting them despite my love of "The Christmas Song"...

I'll have to look in my local market for the canned roasted ones because this soup sounds wonderful. Why is it that any recipe with the word silky in the title sounds irresistible?

Sarah said...

Mmm, this looks so rich! I had to read through the recipe twice before I accepted the fact that no cream goes into this. Thank you for offering a tempting alternative to all of the cream-laden winter soups out there!

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

You know, a friend brought a chestnut soup to a post-Thanksgiving (but still Thanskgiving) dinner last Saturday, and I'm guessing the recipe was pretty similar.


Hilary @ Smorgasbite

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recipe. A really easy (and safe!) roasting alternative that I use *all the time* (I LOVE chestnuts) is to slit them and then throw them in the microwave for about 45 seconds. The skins fall right off and no explosions!