I make this delicious soup once a year at Thanksgiving.  It’s a bit of a production and quite rich, but well worth the time, effort and calories.  For a real showstopper, serve the soup in a hollowed out fresh pumpkin soup tureen, or serve in individual hollowed out acorn squash shells.  Best wishes for a joyous Thanksgiving with all your loved ones!

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons margarine or olive oil
  • 3 pounds chestnuts*
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 cups celery root, cut into cubes
  • 15 cups chicken or vegetable broth (preferably homemade, but ok to use store bought cans or boxes)
  • 1 cup madeira, sherry or white wine
  • bouquet garni** of 8 celery leaves, 8 Italian parsley sprigs, 2 bay leaves***
  • 6 cloves, 2 thyme sprigs
  • salt (only if stock is unsalted)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
  • 2 tablespoons chives, snipped with a scissor

In a skillet large enough to hold the chestnuts, melt 4 tablespoons of the margarine or olive oil.  Place the chestnuts in the skillet and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

In a large soup pot, melt the remaining margarine or olive oil and sauté the onions, carrots, and celery root for about 10 minutes until the onions are translucent, but not browned.

Add the chicken or vegetable broth to the vegetables and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer, then add the chestnuts, madeira, bouquet garni, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Cover the pot and simmer all ingredients for about 25 minutes until the chestnuts and vegetable are soft.

Place a sieve over a large bowl.  Pour all soup ingredients into the sieve, straining out the chestnuts and vegetables and pouring the chestnut broth into the bowl.

Immediately remove the bouquet garni making sure that you have also removed both bay leaves.

Place about 1/3 of the strained chestnuts and vegetables into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Puree the chestnuts and vegetables, adding the strained broth with a soup ladle to thin the puree to soup consistency.

Place chestnut puree back into a soup pot.  Repeat this process with all the strained chestnuts and vegetables, adding strained broth as necessary to get the soup to the desired consistency.

You may have some broth left over.  Make sure to save and refrigerate it.  You may need it to thin the soup if you’re planning on serving it the next day.  The soup tends to thicken with time.

You can make this soup up to three days in advance.  It improves in flavor after a stay in the fridge allowing all the great flavors to commingle.

When you are ready to serve the soup, place in soup pot and reheat to a simmer.

If desired, ladle the soup into hollowed out acorn squash shells for individual servings, or use a large, hollowed out pumpkin as a soup tureen (see photo)****

Garnish the soup with snipped chives.

Makes 12 servings.

Notes

* You can find prepared chestnuts in the supermarket at this time of year.  I have used two brands found in jars—Roland and Minerve.

** A bouquet garni is a French term for a bundle of herbs and spices tied together and placed in soups, stews, etc. to enhance their flavor.  I like to place the bouquet garni ingredients in a piece of cheesecloth which I then tie tightly with kitchen string.  It is easily removed when the soup is done.  You can buy premade cheesecloth pouches to use for the bouquet garni.

*** Make sure to remove both bay leaves before processing the soup.  They are used to impart flavor while the soup is simmering, but should not be eaten afterwards.

**** To prepare acorn squash and sugar pumpkins as vessels for the soup:  You can use the 1 or two pound acorn squash or mini pumpkins for individual servings.  Have your green grocer wash well the outside of squash and/or pumpkins and slice off the top inch or two, reserving the stem for decoration.  Also, have him scoop out all the seeds and pulp.  You should have a lovely vessel for individual servings of the chestnut soup.  If you prefer to serve the soup in one large tureen, choose a sugar pumpkin of about 4 to 6 pounds.  Have your green grocer wash well the outside of the pumpkin, remove the top ¼ of the pumpkin and then scoop out the seeds and the pulp.  A four to six pound sugar pumpkin should hold about 4 to 5 quarts of soup.