In Antiquity, the chestnut tree was regarded in Greece, as the tree of Zeus. Annual chestnut festivals in Greece occur during the fall season in late October in the city of Kastanitsa, Arcadia. Alexander the Great and the Romans planted chestnut trees across Europe while on their way to various campaigns.
This chestnut soup was one of our entrees at a Holiday party my friend JR, Minna, Pat and I organized, and the recipe became a favorite of mine for many years to come. The recipe calls for for a jar of chestnuts, but I buy fresh chestnuts and bake them myself. During the holidays I serve this as a first course in a small cup just to warm everyone up for whats to come later. For a larger crowd you can easily double this recipe. Make this soup the day before, and it reheats beautifully on a low simmer.
Makes 6-8 servings (about 8 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
2 whole cloves
1 California bay leaf
6 cups chicken broth
3 cups fresh chestnuts or 1 (14oz). jar peeled cooked whole chestnuts,crumbled
1/4 cup Madeira
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
If using fresh chesnuts: Cut an x in the middle of the flat side of every chestnut. Place on a sheet pan and bake for 45minutes – 1 hour until soft.
Peel chestnuts while warm and crumble.
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stir in celery,carrot,and onion. Cook on low for 15 minutes until vegetables have softened.
Wrap parsley, cloves, and bay leaf in cheesecloth and tie into a bundle with string.
Add broth and parsley bundle to the vegetables. Bring to a boil.
Reduce and simmer,covered, for 20 minutes. Add chestnuts and Madiera and simmer, covered , for 3 minutes.
Puree soup in small batches in a blender until smooth. Stir in cream, pepper, and salt to taste.
When reheating place on a low simmer.
I found this recipe in Gourmet -November 2003
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