Our first soup was selected by Amy of Destination Anywhere. I really can't think of a better soup to start this off. It is absolutely delicious, if not particularly gorgeous. Don't let my photo keep you from making this soup if you're on the fence. Yes, it is a plain brown soup, but it has a rich mushroom flavor and a hint of sweetness from the chestnuts.
I followed Amy's recipe somewhat faithfully. I forgot to get a carrot at the market, so I made mine with 2 stalks of the celery along with the shallots. Also, I used the mixed dried mushrooms that are available at Trader Joe's instead of all porcinis. And the recipe didn't call for any salt, so when I added the pepper, I tasted it and decided that it did need a little salt. I guess the thought of all those Top Chef episodes where the Tom Colicchio kept telling people that their dish didn't have enough salt, has really made an impression on me!
So, this would be a perfect soup to start of Thanksgiving. It is slightly rich and flavorful, but not heavy. I think we are pretty well limited to making it only around the holidays when chestnuts are available — unless we plan ahead and pick an extra jar or two. I've included the recipe again in the extended entry. I highly recommend it.
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. Combine 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.
4. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth, then return soup to 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.
5. 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.