(The original recipe came from Sara's Secrets, a cooking show on FoodTV. I've fiddled with it a bit)
This would be a great soup as a holiday starter, with the flavors of chestnut and mushroom. You mostly taste porcini, with the chestnut as a background sweetness. It's a puree, so it also freezes well. Just give some good stirs after defrosting if its separated. When I've doubled the recipe for a crowd, I use slightly less than 2/3 cup porcinis, as the flavor is so strong they can overpower the chestnut background. For Thanksgiving, I serve this when we have appetizers, serving the soup from a crockpot to ladle into small mugs or espresso cups. It's not the loveliest color, so a sprinkle of parsley would be a nice touch. It may be the color of coffee, but the heady mushroom aroma rapidly takes away that notion! A sprinkle of sauteed fresh mushrooms would also be a nice garnish.
Dried porcinis, if you haven't brought them back from Europe, can easily be found in stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's--and even "regular" grocery stores often have them in the produce area. I love the simplicity of canned or frozen chestnuts, but the canned ones can be expensive. Trader Joe's has frozen chestnuts just before Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I often see canned chestnuts on sale during or after the holiday season. I bought mine for 1/3 off after last Christmas.
To roast raw chestnuts:
Using a small very sharp knife, cut an X in the bottom of each chestnut. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, and roast at 425 for 20 minutes. Shake the pan halfway through. The cut areas should be peeling back and the nuts should have softened.. Take from the oven, and let cool a few minutes. Peel off the shell and the papery lining. If the chestnuts get cold they'll be harder to peel, but you can stick them back in the oven for a few moments to get them warm and pliable again.
Chestnut and Porcini Soup---makes 6-7 cups, can be frozen
1/3 cup dried porcinis
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery, diced
2 large shallots or ¼ small onion, finely chopped
1 sprig each of bay leaf, thyme and parsley
2 tablespoons butter
2 cans low-sodium chicken broth (or 4 cups homemade)
1 1/4 pounds coarsely chopped peeled roasted chestnuts or 8-12 ounces bottled/canned/defrosted chestnuts. You want between a cup and 1 1/2 cups chestnuts.
2 tablespoons dry sherry, or white wine, or cognac
Creme fraiche or a swirl of heavy cream, for garnish
chopped parsley for garnish
1. Put porcini mushrooms and the hot water in medium bowl. Let stand until porcini mushrooms soften, about 20 minutes.
2. In a large saucepan melt butter and add carrots, celery, and shallots or onions. Saute until tender. Add herbs and chicken broth.
3. Using slotted spoon, transfer porcini mushrooms into saucepan with chicken broth. Add porcini-soaking liquid to saucepan, carefully leaving sediment behind in bowl (I like to pour it through cheesecloth) . Add chestnuts and a few grinds of pepper. Bring to boil, reduce heat cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove herbs before pureeing.
Working in batches, puree soup in a blender until smooth, then return soup to the saucepan. Or, just use an immersion blender, being careful to keep it at the bottom of the pot to avoid hot splatters. You may want to add a bit more water or stock if it’s too thick. You want a light soup, with the consistency of milk. Add Sherry, wine or cognac to taste. Bring soup to simmer, correct seasonings adding salt and pepper, to taste. Cool slightly and refrigerate. Can be prepared 2 days ahead or frozen. Re-warm over medium heat, stirring well to recombine if its separated.
Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with a spoonful of crème fraiche, or drizzle a bit of heavy cream in a spiral. Just a touch of parsley for color is nice.