Chestnut Soup with Black Pepper Cream
This soup is worth making for its aroma alone!
Though they are the lowest in fat of all the nuts, chestnuts contribute an earthy flavor and rich texture to any dish they grace. This soup is worth making for its aroma alone (close your eyes and you're in a chestnut grove in Italy), but you'll like the taste, too.
Heat oven to 450 F. Score chestnuts with an "X" on the flat sides of their shells and arrange them "X" side up on a baking sheet. Roast until shells begin to peel back from nuts, 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove chestnuts from oven, and let rest until cool enough to handle. Peel and discard shells.
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, blanch chestnuts until their brown skins begin to loosen, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove chestnuts and drain on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. When cool enough to handle, peel off skins.
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, reduce the heat to low, and cook until onions are soft and just beginning to color, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, chestnuts and the 6 cups chicken broth and cook until vegetables and nuts are soft, about 30 minutes.
In a blender or food processor, purée the soup in batches until it is smooth but with a bit of texture. Season with salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add more broth. Return to the saucepan and heat through.
To make the black pepper cream: In a small bowl, stir the crème fraîche and heavy cream together until smooth. Stir in the pepper. Serve hot, garnished with a dollop of the black pepper cream topped with a thyme spring.
Serves 8 as a main course.
Donata Maggipinto, Everyday Celebrations (Chronicle Books, 2005).
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