How excited were you to find chestnuts in our most recent CSA share? If you’ve never had them, you might be perplexed. If you have eaten them, you might not be impressed. Just give them a chance. These little buggers are labor-intensive, but worth it. They have a tough outer shell and a velvety inside skin that both need to be removed before you can eat them, and the easiest way to do that is by baking them in a hot oven. Then, even if you’ve done your level best, some of the nutmeat will stick to the skin and you’ll end up crumbling a few. But the flavor is incredible – like a potato but sweeter, earthy, and a little smoky. This soup showcases their special flavor and stretches out a small amount to make a warming fall meal.
Cream of Chestnut Soup
Serves 2, can be doubled to accommodate 1 pound chestnuts.
- 1/2 pound chestnuts
- 2 small leeks
- 1 Tbs oil
- 2 tsp chopped sage, finely chopped
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
Prep the chestnuts: Soak in lukewarm water for 20 minutes to help start separating the skin from the flesh. Preheat your oven to 400. Drain the water, cut an X into the flat side of each nut and place X-up on a baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes. The shells will curl away from the nutmeat. Remove from oven, let cool 5 minutes. Starting at the X, peel back the shell and slid out the nutmeat. It sometimes helps to pinch the chestnut with two hands and crack the shell along the back. If the flesh is really stuck, scrape it out with the rounded end of a butter knife. Discard shells, rough chop nutmeats and set aside.
Make the soup: Cut off the lower 3 or 4 inches of the leeks and discard the rest. Slice each leek section in half lengthwise then slice into thin semi-circles. Place leeks in a bowl with enough cold water to make them float. Stir around, let the dirt settle at the bottom, and scoop out the leeks with a slotted spoon. Drain on a towel.
Heat the oil in a small pot. Add the leeks and stir over medium heat until transparent, about 4 minutes. Add the chestnuts and cook 2 more minutes. Add the stock and sage, simmer 30 minutes or until the chestnuts are very tender. Add the cream and and heat about 5 more minutes, then season with salt and pepper.
Puree the soup in a regular blender or use a stick blender. If you’re using a regular pitcher blender, make sure the lid is on tight. Pour into bowls and garnish with a bit more sage.