Each season has it's special qualities, but autumn calls to me in a way the other seasons don't. Cooler air, sense of the old passing away and new endeavors to take on - though I've been out of school for years the smell of sharpened #2 pencils in the fall still remind me of the excitement of starting a fresh school year (before the homework fatigue sank in;).
Chestnuts are one of my favorite heralds of late fall, promising the holiday season to come. I love them roasted, but I also discovered that they made a lovely soup - I had chestnut soup for the first time with my mom at a lovely French restaurant in Old Town Alexandria. They combined Jerusalem artichokes and chestnut, but as the former are not around just yet, I thought I would try my luck with just the chestnuts.
Browsing through my cookbooks, I found a recipe that looked just perfect. French Women for All Seasons has some of my favorite, simple dishes that really celebrate the true flavor of the ingredients. This worked beautifully with the chestnuts, although admittedly, not as well with the farmers market endive that's true flavor was a little too bitter for my taste. Still, this is my favorite way to cook - bringing out the flavors of good, local and organic if possible ingredients.
adapted from French Women for All Seasons
1 lb chestnuts
2-3 C vegetable or organic chicken stock
1/2 c milk
1 tbs butter
salt and pepper to taste
If you can manage to find pre-peeled chestnuts, this soup will be a breeze. If you're not afraid of rolling up your sleeves a bit, by the whole, fresh chestnuts and peel them yourself. To peel, chop the knobbly end off of the nut (you don't need to cut much of it off) and boil in water for 10-12 minutes. Wait for them to cool slightly, then peel of the outer shell and skin. This is easier to do the warmer the nut is.
Once you have peeled the chestnuts, place them and 2 cups of stock in a pot. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Keep simmering, uncovered for 40-50 minutes, until the nuts are soft and mushy. At this point, it should be blended, but if you still have some remaining skin in the mix, put through a sieve or a food mill once you've blended it. Our new immersion blender was perfect for this, but a food processor or blender will also do the job nicely.
Once blended, add the milk, butter, salt and pepper to taste and serve warm. It's quite rich, so a little goes a long way. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!