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Roasted chestnut soup

Roasted chestnut soup
Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

First impressions should never be underestimated. They can kick off a party to a terrific start, often with little extra effort for the host. A burst of music, a pint-sized greeter to take your coat, an offered tray of martinis ... Read more

Total time: 2 hours | Serves 12
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fennel
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups chestnuts, roasted, peeled and chopped (about 2 pounds whole fresh)
  • 1/2 cup Calvados (apple brandy)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup whipped cream or creme fraiche

Step 1Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the celery, onion and fennel; cover and cook until the vegetables are translucent, about 15 minutes.

Step 2Wrap the thyme sprigs, bay leaf and cloves in a piece of cheesecloth, tie with a piece of kitchen string and add to the vegetables with the chicken broth, chestnuts and brandy. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the chestnuts are very tender, about 45 minutes. Discard the cheesecloth bundle.

Step 3Puree the soup, in batches, using an immersion or regular blender. Return it to the cleaned pot, add the cream and pepper and reheat. Taste for seasoning.

Step 4Fold the thyme leaves into the whipped cream or creme fraiche. Garnish each cup with a dollop.

Note: To roast the chestnuts, use a sharp knife to cut an "x" on the flat side of each nut. Roast for 10 minutes in the oven at 500 degrees. Remove from the oven and cover with a towel that has been soaked in ice water and then wrung out. Let stand for 10 minutes, then peel. You can also use two 7.4-ounce jars of roasted whole chestnuts (available at Whole Foods).


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