Friday, November 25, 2005

Holiday Recipe Blogging

This is a recipe I’ve been making every holiday season since forever, usually for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s that good.

Chestnut Soup

1 pound chestnuts*
Handful of leafy green celery tops (5-6 leafy stalks)
Handful of parsley (about 8-10 sprigs)
1-2 bay leaves (yes, size matters)
2-3 whole cloves
1 ½ tsp of thyme leaves.
2 14oz cans of chicken broth (vegetable stock works too)
½ cup of heavy cream
1/3 cup of medium dry sherry (amontillado)
salt/fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Pierce the flat sides of the chestnuts with a sharp knife then roast them in a 500 degree oven for 6-7 minutes until they are easy to peel from their shells. Remove the shells and inner skins with a sharp knife. Put them in a 3 quart saucepan or Dutch oven. Wrap the celery leaves, parsley, bay leaves and cloves in a cheesecloth pouch and put in the pot with the chestnuts. Add enough water to cover then add the thyme leaves and some fresh ground black pepper. Bring the water to a boil then simmer until the chestnuts are soft, about 25-30 minutes.

When the chestnuts are done, fish out the cheesecloth pouch and squeeze the liquid from the pouch out back into the pot with the chestnuts. Ditch the pouch. Puree the chestnuts, with their cooking water, in a blender. Add one of the cans of chicken broth and blend some more (so it will be thin enough to pour out, the chestnut puree alone is quite thick). Pour the chestnut/broth mixture back into the pot, then start adding the second can of broth. You may not need the whole second can. You don’t want the soup be too thin, maybe about the consistency of cream of tomato soup, so be judicious with the broth. Bring the soup just to the boiling point then turn the heat down to simmer. Warm the cream for about 30 seconds in the microwave, then stir it into the soup. Add the sherry just before you are ready to serve and simmer for two more minutes. Ladle into wide, shallow soup bowls and serve. The recipe should be enough for 4 generous helpings.

*If you find peeling chestnuts to be more than a little bit tedious (I sure do), buy them ready peeled in a jar from Williams Sonoma. If you buy them after the holidays, they will be on sale at something like $7.50 a jar and they’ll keep until next year. That’s cheaper than buying them fresh and shelling them yourself as well as a whole lot less work/aggravation and they are just as good. Plus, it’s a great demonstration of your advance planning skills (or anal retentiveness, whichever you prefer).

Update: Trader Joe's sells frozen pre-peeled chestnuts. (Thanks for the tip Sis!)
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