Sunday SlowSoupers--Porcini and Chestnut Soup
(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.