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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

  1. Coarsely chop chestnuts, reserving 1/3 cup for garnish.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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


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