2007: I made the Mushroom and Chestnut soup from this cookbook. I ended up roasting fresh chestnuts in the oven, peeling them, and then plopping them directly in the soup where they were blended into oblivion. I forgot to take a photo, and while it was memorably delicious, I soon rolled on to greener pastures. A recipe is lucky to be made twice in my world if it doesn’t get blogged.
2010: Fast forward a few years, and I finally found the vacuum-packed chestnuts requested in the recipe. I immediately bought them – if memory serves they were about $4 for a 5 ounce package – and they were promptly relegated to the back of the pantry.
2011: The chestnuts are moved from Pittsburgh to Arlington, Virginia. As they are being packed, I wonder: “Am I ever going to make that soup?” as well as “What’s the chance these things are still good?” and “I can’t believe I’m moving these chestnuts.”
2011, one week later: Upon unpacking the pantry box: “Guess I’ll return these chestnuts to the back of the pantry.”
2012: I hanker for mushroom soup. I remember the chestnuts in the pantry. I open the vacuum-sealed pouch far away from my face, in case Horrible Things have happened in there.
They. Are. Still. Good.
Not bothering to open a cookbook, I reconstruct a mushroom and chestnut soup from memory and instinct. It is thick. It is rich. It is creamy without actual cream.
I think the chestnuts intensify the earthiness of the mushrooms. You don’t taste them – there’s no New-York-street-corner-at-Christmas flavor – but there is a profound depth and warmth that makes it AOK if winter decides to rally once again. It’s also quite thick. I suppose you could water it down when you serve it, or just use more broth, but I’d rather mop it up with bread.
If you want to eat this, you might also like:
- More mushrooms: Roasted Pesto Portabellas
- Another creamy-yet-virtually-creamless soup: Spiced Apple Parsnip Soup
- Mushrooms with actual cream: Mushroom Lasagna Rolls with Sage Bechamel
Creamy Mushroom Chestnut Soup
Inspired once upon a time by Small Bites by Jennifer Joyce, but mostly made up at the stove
To keep this soup wholly vegetarian, use a vegetable broth, or better yet, a mushroom broth. If it’s winter and you can find fresh chestnuts, it’s pretty cost effective to roast them yourself, supposing you have the time and inclination. Otherwise, vacuum-packed or jarred chestnuts will do just fine.
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped shallot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery (or 1 stalk)
20 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
4 ounces wild mushrooms
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup port (red wine will do)
4 large sprigs of thyme
6 ounces roasted chestnuts
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups whole milk
2 slices white bread, crusts cut off, torn to pieces
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and celery and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften. Add both kinds of mushrooms. Cook until they release their liquid. (You can add a tablespoon or two of water to the pot if they start to stick when first added.) Boil off the mushroom liquid, then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Pour the port (or wine, if that’s what you’ve got) into the pan and turn the heat to high. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated, then add the chestnuts, broth and milk. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low. Add the torn bread and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Blend the soup in batches, taking care not to explode mushroominess all over your kitchen. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You can add additional broth while blending if it is too thick.