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When Life Gives You Chestnuts...Make Soup

My other half visited the River Market Co-op of Stillwater and brought home yummy delights, both familiar and some not so. The foreigner to our kitchen were chestnuts, from Iowa. He was excited, and I curious. “‘Tis the season to have a chestnut," he declared.

 

Cold air creeping in through the cracks raged it’s battle with the warm air wafting from the fireplace. Dinner was consumed, the kids were in bed, and all was quiet except for the rockin’ tunes played by none other than 89.3 The Current. Nat King Cole’s version of “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”’ cycled through our heads. Admittedly, our fireplace is the fool-proof version that turns fire on and off with a simple flip-of-the-wrist switch. So, roasting chestnuts on an “open fire” would not be an option.

 

As all things are done these days, we googled “chestnut roasting methods” and proceeded with our plan to celebrate the season with our first-ever chestnut experience. Per instructions, we scored an x into each of the chestnuts and placed them in the oven set to 425 degrees for a total of 25 minutes. 

 

The timer went off and we paused the movie, excited to have a taste. We cracked open each of the shells, pulling out the chestnut meat which I insisted on calling “squirrel brains”, because they look like little brains, don’t they? Heavy with anticipation, I was first to take a bite. It was an anti-climatic, “oh it’s nice” moment. The chestnut’s texture and sweetness was not exactly what we were expecting. So into a container they went and movie night resumed sans the famed nuts. 

 

Determined to make good of our new friend, I consulted various recipes and took stock of the fridge and pantry. In the end, I decided to make a chestnut and mushroom soup. The soup was a delicious recovery from the earlier chestnut experience. The aromatic and savory soup consisted of chestnuts, root vegetables, porcini and crimini mushrooms and was topped with cream and crisp onion straws.

 

Chestnut and Mushroom Soup 

Inspired by the Food Network’s Creamy Chestnut Soup with Porcini Mushrooms

 

Ingredients

1 oz. Porcini Mushrooms

2 ½ cups Hot Water

2 Large Shallots, Sliced

1 Small Parsnip (or other root vegetable), Diced

1 Medium Carrot, Diced

1 Celery Stalk, Diced

8 Large Crimini Mushrooms, Sliced

1 Small Parsnip (or other root vegetable), Diced

2 ½ Tablespoons Butter

2 Bay Leafs and 1 Sprig of Thyme

3 ½ Cups Chicken (or vegetable) Stock

1 Lb. Roasted Pecans, Coarsely Chopped

2 Tablespoons Sherry

Salt and Pepper to Taste

1 Small Yellow Onion, Sliced 

3 Tablespoons Oil

1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream

2 Tablespoons Sour Cream

 

-Place dried porcini mushrooms into a bowl and add pour the 2 ½ cups of coiling water over. Let stand for 20 minutes. (If you are lucky enough to have fresh porcini mushrooms, skip this step and add them with the crimini mushrooms below)

-In a saucepan, melt butter and saute shallots, parsnips (any root vegetable you have will do), carrots, celery, and crimini mushrooms. Saute until tender. Add bay leaves, sprig of thyme and chicken stock. Add porcini mushrooms and their stock (hot water added to the mushrooms). 

-Using a food processor, mince the chestnuts and add to the above ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste (the chestnuts and root vegetables are sweet, so I like a lot of salt and pepper).

-Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.

-Working in batches, puree soup in the food processor or use a blender. Put soup back into saucepan and add sherry. Taste and correct salt and pepper.

Topping

-In small fryer, heat up oil to very hot temperature. Add yellow onions and fry until just browned. Turn off heat and let onions continue cooking in the hot oil (until they are crisp and light brown in color).

-Place heavy cream and sour cream in a medium bowl. Using a mixer, beat the heavy and sour creams. If consistency is not firm enough, chill in freezer for 20 minutes and beat, again.

 

Leigh Ann Ahmad was dragged kicking and screaming to the Cities by her husband; having been born and bred in Cleveland, Ohio, she just could not fathom how colder could be better. Now, five years and two kids later, she cannot imagine a better place to play and thrive. She’s a reformed carb-aholic, wannabe writer, social justice advocate, book- club geek, veggie grower and local foods connoisseur. Her last article for SGT was In Search of a Nut.

 

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