Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” Nat King Cole says it best (or should I say, sings it best). I grew up listening to these Christmas words among others sung by the voices of Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis. When I close my eyes, I can still see the familiar scene: It’s evening. The light is dim and my mother is tidying up the kitchen. My father hasn’t returned from work yet. I’m in the living room, watching and listening. The tree is a-glow. Not a light, bow or berry our of place. They know that Santa’s on his way, he’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh. So calm and so serene. This is Christmastime.
Although I didn’t grow up eating chestnuts, since I’ve been with my husband I’ve eaten them every Christmas Eve. His family roasts them and eats them warm. It’s a real treat, so soft and flavorful. Recently, a good friend of mine shared this recipe with me: chestnut soup. It sounded unreal… I love soups. And to boot, a cognac cream on top. Hello! This recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine, from many years ago. It makes a perfect starter to your Christmas meal. I bought whole chestnuts so I could get the full experience. To save on time, you have the option of getting vacuum packed, ready-pealed nuts. Either way, this one is worth the effort! Merry Christmas, everyone!
All Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco
Yields: 4 servings
Ingredients for Soup:
- 2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 small carrot, chopped
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups boiled chestnuts* (see instructions below for cooking) or 2 cups vacuum-packed chestnuts (about 10 oz), halved
Ingredients for Cognac cream:
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
- 2 tsp Cognac
- pinch of salt
- To boil chestnuts (1 lb nuts will make about the 2 cups you’ll need): using a sharp, small knife, cut an X in each chestnut. Cook chestnuts in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer the nuts to work surface. Remove hard shell and papery brown skin while chestnuts are still warm.
- Melt butter with oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, carrot, onion and thyme and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth and chestnuts. Cover partially and simmer until chestnuts are very tender, about 30 minutes.
- Puree soup in batches in a blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
- To make cream, whisk whipping cream, cognac and pinch of salt in a medium bowl until thickened but not stiff. Bring soup to a simmer over low heat. Ladle into bowls. Swirl spoonful of Cognac cream into each bowl and serve. Enjoy!
Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine.