Roasted Chestnut Soup with Cream Fraiche

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Wait!!! Don’t hit the “X” button on your screen.

You might be thinking, “A soup made out of nuts? No thanks. I’ll pass.”

But it’s actually a very delicious dish. Let me explain.

I was flipping through a back issue of the magazine, Metropolitan Home, when I came across a recipe for chestnut soup. Hmmmmmm. I was intrigued. I’d never heard of a soup made out of nuts before (keep in mind that I’m originally from Alabama, so, anything not deep fried is pretty exotic to me).

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What would it taste like? Being a pureed nut soup, would the final product be grainy or smooth? I went through this deliberation process, but honestly because I love trying new dishes, I had pretty much already made up my mind to give this soup a try.

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In addition to being unique, the recipe is also seasonal. With the exception of this delish Cranberry-Lemon Chocolate Tart, I have been trying my best to cook with seasonal (and regional when possible) produce. And what can be more seasonal than roasted chestnuts in Feb?

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I’ve only made a few tweaks to the original recipe.

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First, the original recipe called for frozen chestnuts. To me the beauty of cooking is in using all my senses. I wanted to feel the soft but hard shells. I wanted to perfume the house with the smell of the sweet chestnuts roasting away in the oven. I wanted to hear the cracking and feel the anticipation as I work to release the chestnuts from their shells. So there would be no frozen chestnuts in this soup. I wanted the whole experience…I would roast them.

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The second change was in how the fat and dairy was incorporated into the recipe. The original recipe used only heavy cream which is added in the soup towards the beginning of the cooking process. I am not a big fan of boiling cream in creamed soup. I prefer to cook the vegetables with stock and milk (I use low-fat) and finish the soup off with a bit of heavy cream. It’s a technique from James Peterson’s book ‘Vegetables’ – which to me is the bible of vegetable cooking. The book’s cover proclaims it as “the most authoritative guide to buying, preparing and cooking” vegetable. I agree. It is.

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In the end, I really enjoyed the soup and its complex flavor profile. The sweet ‘meatiness’ of the chestnuts paired with the tang of the cream fraiche is a great marriage. It’s also a great ‘soup & sandwich’ soup. It lends itself to being matched with a nice hearty, earthy sandwich.

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No sandwich? It works well with a nice glass of dry white wine. Which is what I did.

Note: For a vegetarian version replace chicken stock with veggie stock.

Cheers!

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ROASTED CHESTNUT SOUP WITH CRÈME FRAICHE

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh chestnuts
  • ½ cup yellow onion, diced
  • ½ TBL dried thyme
  • 1 TSP Kosher salt
  • 2 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups milk (I prefer low-fat)
  • 4 cups chicken stock (low sodium, reduced fat, if using canned) or veggie stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Crème fraiche, for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Preheat oven to 425⁰F.

Recipe:

  1. Placing the chestnuts flat side down on a dish towel (to prevent slipping), carefully score each with an “X” mark across the shell with a sharp serrated knife. Place chestnut in a baking pan with the “X” side pointing upwards. Roast chestnuts for 20-25 minutes. Remove chestnuts from oven. When they are just cool enough to handle peel them of their shell and inner skin. Note: Peel the chestnuts before they become cold.
  2. Over medium heat, sauté the onions and thyme with a pinch of salt in the olive oil in a heavy bottom sauté pan until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add ½ cup water and simmer gently until the onions are soft and sweet and the water has almost evaporated. Add the milk and chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer.
  3. Add chestnuts and simmer until chestnuts are falling apart, about 25 minutes.
  4. Remove soup from heat and stir in the heavy cream.
  5. Using a hand held blender, puree soup until it is well blended and smooth. If the soup is too thick for your taste, feel free to add more milk to thin it out (or more heavy cream, if you dare). Salt to taste.
  6. Note: For an extra smooth finish pass soup through a fine strainer after pureeing it).
  7. Serve soup hot with a dollop of crème fraiche and lots of freshly ground black pepper over the top.
  8. Serves 8 to 10

 

 

 

 

 

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