Hard Nut To Crack
Each year at this time I become excited to see fresh chestnuts available at the farmer’s market. I’m not really sure why. As a person who grew up on the West coast, chestnuts are one of those foods that leave me somewhat perplexed. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire was an image planted in my head by Nat King Cole or Charles Dickens. We don’t have the street carts like they do in the East. I have no history with chestnuts.
When my sister cooked an amazing chestnut soup for Thanksgiving one year, I was intrigued and enticed. Now that the chestnuts have arrived again, I find myself longing for same soup. The problem is that meal was over 15 years ago. (The fact that I still think about should tell you how delicious and memorable it was!) Unfortunately, this was way before I became obsessed with cooking. I didn’t pay attention to where the recipe originated.
My sister is equally flummoxed. So I have been thumbing through my cookbooks and scouring the websites trying to see if I can find that darn recipe. It’s keeping me up at night. (I gotta get a life.)
I did find one promising recipe in a family favorite cookbook published by the Junior League of Palo Alto in 1980. I still testing it, but it looks like it would be wonderful on chilly night. Let me know what you think…
For those who don’t want to hassle with roasting and peeling fresh chestnuts, we have all the jarred and vacuum-sealed chestnuts you could possibly wish for, on aisle 7B, available and waiting for you to give them a good home.
Cream of Chestnut Soup
Recipe courtesy of Private Collection, Recipes from the Junior League of Palo Alto, 1980
1 pound fresh chestnuts, shelled*
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Large onion, chopped
1 Large carrot, chopped
2 Cups chicken or turkey stock
¾ Cups cream
¼ Cups sherry
Salt and Pepper to taste
*To Shell chestnuts, slit convex sides with a sharp knife. Bake in an oiled pan at 450° for 5–6 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove shells and skins with knife. If fresh chestnuts are not available, you may use an 8 or 10 ounce jar of vacuum-packed chestnuts.
In a heavy pan, melt butter and sautée the onions until lightly browned. Add chestnuts, carrots and stock. If stock is not strong enough, add 1 chicken bouillon cube. Simmer until chestnuts are soft, about 20 minutes.
Puree cooked mixture in a blender, processing in small batches until smooth. An immersion blender would work as well. Pour the puree into a medium-sized sauce pan and add the cream and sherry. Heat it to a simmer. Do not boil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Top each serving with a dollop of lightly salted, whipped cream and a dash of paprika. Pass a cruet of sherry in the side for those who wish extra flavor.
This is a very rich soup. You will like it best with roasted meats and poultry.