CHESTNUT FENNEL SOUP (for six)
2 cups roasted, shelled and skinned chestnuts (1 pound in shell or 14 ounces bottled whole)
1 shallot, chopped
2 leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped
¾ stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dry white wine
½ fennel bulb (sometimes called anise), stalks and core discarded and bulb coarsely chopped
1 cup chicken stock
2-½ cups water
¼ cup half-and-half
- Coarsely chop chestnuts, reserving 1/3 cup for garnish.
- Cook shallot and leeks in 2 tablespoons butter in a 5 quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until softened. Add wine and simmer until almost all liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in fennel, broth, chestnuts (excluding garnish), and water, then simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in half-and-half and cool mixture slightly.
- Puree mixture in batches in a blender until smooth, transferring to a bowl (use caution when blending hot liquids). Return soup to pot and bring to a simmer, thinning with water if desired. Season with salt and pepper.
- While soup is reheating, heat remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a 10 inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then saute reserved chestnuts with salt and pepper to taste, stirring constantly, until crisp and butter is browned, about 4 minutes.
- Serve soup topped with chestnuts and drizzled with brown butter.
NOTE: To roast fresh chestnuts, preheat oven to 350*. Make a large X on the flat side of each chestnut with a chestnut knife or sharp paring knife, cutting through the shell but not the meat of the nut. Soak chestnuts in a bowl of warm water to cover by 2 inches for 15 minutes, then drain well. Roast in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan until shell curls away at X mark, about 15 minutes. Wearing protective gloves, peel away shells from chestnuts while still hot. Blanch chestnuts in boiling water 2 minutes and drain. Rub in a kitchen towel to remove skins.
from Gourmet Magazine, November, 2000