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Chestnut Soup

One of my favorite wintertime dishes is Chestnut Soup.  Warm and hearty it has a rich flavor yet is a very healthy dish. And it is super easy to put together, yet is fancy-schmancy enough to serve to guests.  
The original recipe this is based on used vacuum-packed chestnuts but one day while strolling through DeLaurenti I came across canned chestnut puree and I’ve been using it ever since.  Chestnut (and the puree) is an ingredient that plays a much larger role in countries other than the US.  Italians use chestnut in both sweet and savory dishes and it is also often found in French cooking.  So if you are looking for the puree – or even the vacuum packed chestnuts – look for a market that carries international foodstuffs and you’ll be more likely to find it. 
In the Seattle area I generally pick the puree up at DeLaurenti, as mentioned.  An even better source is Big John’s PFI.  DeLaurenti carries a couple of Italian brands and Big John carries a French brand.  With today’s gas prices it probably doesn’t make sense to go out of your way to go to Big John’s just for puree but it’s about $2 less per can there. No matter where you get it make sure you check the ingredient list carefully.  The only things that should be listed are chestnut and water.  No sugar or any sort of sweetener should be on the list and there shouldn’t be any salt.  Because chestnuts are often used in desserts there is a sweetened version available but it’s not what you want.  
Sometimes the puree can be a little stiff which makes it harder to incorporate into the stock.  Don’t worry about that though.  This soup is blended near the end and any stubborn little lumps or chunks will be taken care of. 
The original recipe calls for chicken stock but really any sort of stock will do.  And, in fact, this can be a really nice dish to serve vegetarian friends.  Just use vegetable or mushroom stock instead of chicken and you have something suitable for their requirements.  Because the soup is so hearty if you add a salad and good loaf of crusty bread you will have a complete meal!      
Chestnut Soup
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 carrot, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 45 oz of chicken stock (3 cans)
  • 1 15oz can of chestnut puree or of vacuum packed chestnuts
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
Sauté the celery, carrot and onion in the butter and oil until really tender but not yet turning golden. 
Add the thyme, chicken stock and chestnut puree or chestnuts.  Let the soup simmer until the puree has completely softened or the whole chestnuts are tender, 30 – 45 minutes.  If using puree stir every now and then to make sure it gets broken into small pieces if not completely incorporated. 
Carefully put the soup into a blender in batches, making sure never to fill the blender more than half full.  Place a towel over the blender lid and hold it snugly when starting the blender.  Puree each batch until all vegetables and the chestnut are smooth.  There will be a little texture to the soup but it shouldn’t be lumpy.  
Transfer the soup back to the pan and bring it back to a nice warm serving temperature.
Ladle the soup into bowls.  Drizzle a little heavy cream over the top.     

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