Cream of chestnut soup is just one delicious way to enjoy roasted chestnuts. Photo © Evegny B | Fotolia.
When the air becomes crisp and the autumn leaves rustle, the aroma of roasting chestnuts fills the air. Served up by street vendors in our town, this is old-time comfort food.
In addition to snacking on roasted chestnuts, we have a passion for chestnut soup and for the classic French dessert, Mont Blanc, which uses sweetened chestnut purée. (More about that below.)
Much of our canned chestnut supply is cultivated in, and imported from, southern-central France. Canned chestnuts are peeled and pre-cooked, so they can be enjoyed without “roasting on an open fire.”
Look for the Roland brand at your grocer’s or specialty food store. They’re available whole, peeled and pre-cooked, in water, or as a cream or purée. (If you’re new to cooking, please note: Chestnuts in water are NOT the same as water chestnuts. You want the former.)
Chestnuts are chock full of antioxidants, and studies show that they may reduce the risks of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Chestnuts also deliver one’s daily dose of vitamins B6 and C, and are a good source of fiber and potassium.
Chestnut soup is an easy-to-make comfort food and a classic to ward off the fall-winter chill. A recipe from chef and beekeeper Laurey Masterton follows. It’s from her forthcoming “The Fresh Honey Cookbook” (September 2013 / Storey Publishing).
“From-scratch advocates may want to roast and peel their own chestnuts,” says Laurey, “which is easy enough to do although time-consuming. Or you can purchase whole, peeled chestnuts.”
Don’t pair chestnut honey with the chestnuts. “Chestnut honey has too strong a flavor for this recipe,” she advises. “Instead, I suggest eucalyptus, a dark honey that doesn’t have an overly assertive taste, so the chestnut flavor can shine.” (See the different varieties of honey.)
The recipe serves 6–8.
We don’t like a lot of sweetness in soup, so we use only a teaspoon of honey.
CREAM OF CHESTNUT SOUP RECIPE
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 pounds cooked, peeled chestnuts
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, plus more if needed
1-1/2 cups heavy cream, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons honey, preferably eucalyptus or other dark honey
1/2 cup dry sherry
3 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Garnishes: whole or halved roasted chestnuts plus smaller pieces, fresh thyme and/or sage (or parsley)
1. COMBINE. Melt the butter in a large soup pot over low heat. Add the onion and sauté until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the chestnuts, carrots and stock. Simmer over low heat until the chestnuts are very tender (until you can poke a fork through one), about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
2. BLEND. Blend the soup with an immersion blender until completely smooth, or drain the vegetables in a colander and pulse them in a food processor until smooth; return to the pot and blend with the broth.
3. ADD. Add the cream, honey and sherry. Add the salt and a few grinds of pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings. If the soup is too thick, add additional stock or cream. Warm over medium-low heat but do not boil, as the cream will curdle.
4. GARNISH. Garnish as desired and serve. We like the combined garnishes of chestnut pieces and fresh herbs, but you can serve the soup plain, with just a bit of fresh pepper and/or a simple crouton.
Find more of our favorite soup recipes.
MORE WAYS TO ENJOY CHESTNUTS
While chestnuts can be eaten raw, cooking them allows for a sweeter, more delicate flavor. Other delicious uses include:
Roast as a snack in the oven or toaster oven (recipe below in footnote)
Sliced and sprinkled on a salad
Chopped and stirred into risotto or rice pilaf
Candied, as a delicious sweet treat
Chopped and added to stuffing
As a rich dessert, Mont Blanc,† a classic French recipe of sweetened chestnut puree in a meringue shell, topped with whipped cream
*For a snack, preheat oven to 425 F. Place chestnuts in a shallow baking pan and roast for 30 minutes or up to 40 minutes for larger chestnuts. For even cooking, shake the pan several times to rotate the chestnuts. If you just the chestnuts for a recipe, cooki them for 10 to 15 minutes; then you’ll be able to peel them. Peel as soon as the nuts are cool enough to handle. Once completely cool, they are difficult to peel. But if they cool before you get to peel them, you can reheat them briefly to soften the shells.
†The dessert is named after the highest mountain in the Alps (and the entire European Union). It lies between the regions of Haute-Savoie, France and the Aosta Valley in Italy.