Today´s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is Chestnut-Pear Soup. A wonderful autumnal treat. Chestnuts make for a velvety, warming soup, and Dorie has added pears for an extra sweet touch.
As I already mentioned in my Danish Braid blog post for the Tuesdays with Dorie group last month, we have a chestnut tree in our garden and although our home-grown chestnuts are definitely smaller than the commercial cultivars from France, Italy or Spain that are available in stores and markets around here, for flavor, they simply cannot be beat.
To prepare the chestnuts for cooking or baking, make a slit in the shell of each chestnut and plunge them into a pan of boiling water. Bring back to the boil and simmer for three to four minutes. Drain, leave until cool enough to handle, then peel off the skin, including the thin, brown inner skin. Alternatively, you can roast and peel them.
Chestnuts are a wonderful and versatile seasonal ingredient in all manner of recipes, both savory and sweet. And they are fantastic in soup, where they behave more like beans, acting as a thickener and a great absorber of flavors.
Dorie´s recipe for the Chestnut-Pear Soup is simple and the ingredients required are mainly pantry items. For the soup you will need some unsalted butter, an onion, two leeks, and five celery stalks, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, two ripe pears (I used two large “Williams Christ pears”), thyme or rosemary (I used a bit of both because I like the “woodsy” flavor that rosemary brings to chestnuts and pears), chicken stock (I used about four cups of homemade chicken stock), and a good two cups of cooked and peeled chestnuts.
The process of making the soup is much like making a regular cream soup – sauté the onion, leeks and celery, add the pears, herbs and then broth and chestnuts, simmer gently for about forty minutes, purée using a blender and serve really hot - we liked adding quite a bit of freshly ground pepper to this soup.
To finish the Chestnut-Pear Soup, I added a generous dollop of crème fraiche, parsnip chips and fresh sage leaves that I had previously fried in olive oil and lightly seasoned with sea salt.
This is definitely a rich and creamy soup and you should make sure to serve it as quickly as possible – if you can get your hands on fresh chestnuts, you should use those - sure, peeling them "can try the patience of a saint" (as one of my very favorite cooks would say), but the taste is definitely worth it.
To see how much the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group enjoyed today´s recipe, please click here.
If you happen to own Dorie Greenspan´s book “Around my French Table”, you will find the recipe for the “Chestnut-Pear Soup” on page 82.