Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. I guess Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby have made chestnuts part of the holiday season for ever. I never really knew what that line was all about until my first holiday season in London, where vendors sell roasting chestnuts from special carts on the main shopping streets, and the fragrance they produce really does make the air smell like Christmas. We don’t do that here, so it was a new experience for me. In fact, it has only been in the last few years that chestnuts started to appear in stores here. For me, the chestnut frenzy starts when I first see the jars of roasted and peeled chestnuts on the shelf. I start going on a spree, stocking up just in case I can’t find them again. I always use chestnuts in my Thanksgiving stuffing, but I inevitably buy too many jars, so I’ve become pretty creative at using them up, like my Crispy Chestnut Veal.
But here I have interpreted the sweet, silky flavor of chestnuts into a creamy, lovely soup perfect for the holidays. It can be a nice, warming hearty dish with some good country bread and a winter salad, but also makes a most elegant starter for a seated holiday dinner. And if you are of a mind, it would be brilliant served in shot glasses passed around at a swanky cocktail party.
I always buy chestnuts ready-roasted in jars or vacuum-sealed bags, but if you like to buy whole chestnuts and roast and peel them yourself, by all means, go ahead.
Roasted Chestnut Bisque
Marjoram is an amazing complement to chestnuts, but if you can’t find it, substitute thyme. Don’t skip the marjoram oil, as it really adds the perfect finishing touch. You could sprinkle some chestnut pieces or small toasted croutons on the bisque as well.
For the Bisque:
1 medium-sized yellow onion
3 celery stalks
1 medium-sized leek
¼ cup olive oil
6 Tablespoon cognac or brandy
4 cups chicken stock
2 (7.4 ounce) jars roasted and peeled chestnuts
6 – 7 sprigs marjoram
1 ½ cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Marjoram Oil (see below)
Dice the onion, carrot, celery and leek. I do this in the food processor pulse just until everything is chopped. In a large Dutch oven, sauté the vegetables in ¼ cup olive oil over medium-high heat until soft and tender, and the onion and leeks are translucent. Add the cognac and stir, scraping up and bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook until the cognac is evaporated. Add the stock, the chestnuts and the marjoram sprigs (count how many so you can take them out later). Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer the soup for 45 minutes. Leave the soup to cool until it’s safe to put in the blender. Meanwhile, prepare the marjoram oil (see below).
Fish out the marjoram stems, then transfer the soup to a blender in batches and puree until smooth. After blending each batch, pour the soup through a wire mesh strainer set over a large bowl and push the soup through with a wooden spoon or spatula. There won’t be much in the way of solids left behind, but straining the soup creates the velvety texture that makes this bisque so elegant. (For an even velvetier texture, you could push the soup through the strainer a second time). When you have strained all the soup, wipe out the Dutch oven and return the soup to the pot. At this point, you can cover the soup and refrigerate it for up to two days before completing it.
When ready to serve the soup, heat it gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally, but do not let it boil. Slowly stir in the cream, incorporating it fully into the soup, then warm through. Serve immediately drizzled with marjoram oil.
Makes 4 large bowls or 6 small
For the Marjoram Oil:
6 Tablespoons olive oil
4 sprigs marjoram
Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan just until bubbles appear on the surface and the oil is shimmering. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for two minutes, then drop in the marjoram sprigs, cover the pan and leave to cool. Strain the cooled oil into a jar or small spouted measuring cup for drizzling on the soup. The oil can be kept in an airtight jar for up to a week.
This post is part of Share Our Strength’s Share Our Holiday Table a virtual, progressive fundraising dinner designed to raise awareness of child hunger in the U.S. during the critical holiday season. As you enjoy the bounty of the table this season, please think of those who are not so fortunate and donate to Share Our Strength. And visit the Share Our Holiday Table site to see all the amazing bloggers who are participating and check out their great recipes.
Liz @ Blog is the New Black says
Ths recipe sounds unlike anything I’ve heard of before!
If I have a can of roasted chestnut puree sitting in my pantry because I thought it was something that I would use a million ways but haven’t actually touched in so long it needs to be dusted, could I use that? what proportions?
The Runaway Spoon says
Many cans of chestnut purée are sweetened and are great for using in desserts, but not in this soup, so check first. I have never made this with purée, so I’m afraid I don’t know proportions. I would think you could stir in the chestnut purée at the same point you add the roasted chestnuts, but reduce the simmering time. The soup will still need to be blended and strained.
I have to say I was eyeing chestunuts at the grocery store this week, wracking my brain for posts I had seen lately that used them. And here we go … a soup. Lovely. Thanks for the inspiration and it’s a treat to be participating in this event with you!
-Lexie | Lexie’s Kitchen
Oops, double comment and missed that “jarred and roasted bit” … suppose I could use the actual chestnuts as props! 🙂
The Runaway Spoon says
You can roast the chestnuts yourself and use them. You’ll just need the same weight of chestnut flesh.
Michelle (What's Cooking with Kids) says
This is beautiful and elegant! Thank you for your support towards ending childhood hunger!
Carol Peterman/TableFare says
I love chestnuts and your soup sounds fabulous. There is a Japanese grocery store in Seattle that sells roasted chestnuts right outside their front door. They are so good!
Gluten Free Diva says
You know, other than swimming in the aroma of roasted chestnuts on the streets of NYC, when I would visit with my family during holiday season, I didn’t know you could actually cook them! This soup looks so elegant and delicious. Thanks for sharing!
tobias kocht! says
Great way of using chestnut!