VeganMoFo: Flavor Bible Week – Chestnuts

I think after planning, cooking, eating and cleaning up after Thanksgiving dinner I was just not in the mood to write about food for a day or two.  So, I’m back for the fourth installment of Flavor Bible Week – chestnuts!

I do not believe that I had ever had a chestnut in my life until this week.  I really didn’t know what they were or how to prepare them, so I did a lot of research online to make sure I was treating them correctly.  I had been seeing a lot of chestnut bisques online recently, so I thought a soup would go over well.  I wanted to make the soup uber-delicious in order to use it for a Thanksgiving starter, and the good news is that it turned out really well.  I was inspired by this recipe, as well as the recipe in the Millennium Cookbook, and ended up using eleven flavor matches:  apple cider, bay leaf, “butter”, celery root, “milk”, nutmeg, onions, pepper, sherry, sugar and thyme.  In perusing the flavor matches, I noticed that chestnuts could go with a lot of savory flavors, or a lot of sweet, so I decided on a savory soup with a sweet topping.

First, let’s talk about ingredients.  I know celery root, or celeriac, isn’t a widely used ingredient, but I think it should be!  They’re not very pretty…

…but they’re very tasty.  Celery root is kind of like a mild root vegetable with a celery flavor, and would complement anything that celery normally goes with.  Once you peel away the skin and the nubby parts, you’re left with a white, starchy veggie that is easy to prepare.

Now, the chestnuts.  I was actually hoping to find either jarred or dried chestnuts to make my life easier, but lucky me, I could only find fresh.  So, I looked up instructions and roasted them in the oven.

They cooked up okay, but they were a total pain in the butt to peel.  I think maybe if I had made the cuts larger, the skin could have come off more on its own and the peeling would have been easier.  As it was, it took me about three hours to peel while I was watching The Walking Dead.  Here’s what I ended up with:

Not very pretty, but they sure are tasty.

For the sweet topping, I wanted to make a gastrique.  A gastrique is just a fancy word for a wine/vinegar reduction made with fruit and maybe some sugar.  One of the flavor matches for chestnuts is prunes, which I think are an under appreciated ingredient in general, so I set out for a prune gastrique.  The problem turned out to be that the prunes sucked up all the juice, which I really could have anticipated it I thought about it.  If I had a high-speed blender I could’ve turned it into a puree, but my blender aint that strong.  So, I just accepted that the gastrique didn’t work and scraped out the few drops that I could for my first taste:

While the soup isn’t the prettiest color, it tastes awesome.  It’s creamy yet thick, and subtly flavored with the richness of chestnuts and that hint of celery flavor.  The gastrique added that little touch of sweet and sour which set of the soup perfectly.  To serve on Thanksgiving, I made a reduction of the same ingredients without the prunes, and this turned out good as well.  I probably put too much of the reduction on our Thanksgiving portions – it really only needs a small drizzle so you get the sweetness in a few bites, but not in others.  I promise, it tastes much better than it looks!

Chestnut & Celeriac Soup with Sherry-Cider Reduction

If you’re not into the sweet topping, some thinly sliced, crispy fried mushrooms would be a nice alternative.  If you can’t find fresh chestnuts or don’t want to bother peeling them, use about half the amount of dried chestnuts, or a drained jar of chestnuts.  The soup reheats well, so feel free to make it the day before serving, but I would recommend making the reduction just before service.

2 Tbs Earth Balance
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 leek, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
pinch sea salt
2 celeriac, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 lb fresh chestnuts, roasted and peeled
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2 quarts vegetable broth
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
dash ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp white pepper
Reduction:
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
pinch sea salt
2 Tbs sugar

1. Melt the Earth Balance in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, leek, garlic and pinch of salt and saute for 12-14 minute, until onions are translucent and leeks are soft.
2. Add the celeriac, chestnuts, bay leaf, thyme and vegetable broth.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Uncover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for about 40 minutes, until celeriac is easily pierced with a fork.
3. Meanwhile, make the reduction:  Combine all ingredients (apple cider through sugar) in a small pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until the mixture is reduced enough to cling to the bottom of the pot when tilted.  The reduction should drizzle easily off of a spoon.  If you reduce the mixture too much, add a Tablespoon or two of water and stir well to thin.  Remove from the heat when it is the right consistency.
4. Remove soup from the heat and discard bay leaf and thyme sprig.
5. Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches if necessary.  Add the milk and blend until completely smooth.
6. Wipe out the pot if needed, and transfer the soup back to the pot.  Add the nutmeg and white pepper and stir.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
7. Gently reheat the soup and serve warm, topped with a small drizzle of the reduction.

Servings: 6

Amount Per Serving
Calories 311.2
Calories From Fat (20%) 60.69
% Daily Value
Total Fat 6.79g 10%
Saturated Fat 1.42g 7%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 231.35mg 10%
Potassium 685.05mg 20%
Total Carbohydrates 57.17g 19%
Fiber 2.11g 8%
Sugar 6.85g
Protein 5.67g 11%

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7 Comments »

  1. sophia said

    j’adore chestnuts. i buy the fancy french ones in a jar but only when they are massively on sale—then i stock up. we roasted and peeled fresh ones once but yeah. what a pain. no wonder they’re like $15 a jar.
    amey made a chestnut soup one time that had frangelico in it. it was divine.

  2. Mandee said

    That looks beautiful! I have to try this soup as I’ve never cooked with celeriac.

    I have had chestnuts, every year we have chestnut cream with our Christmas pudding my my favourite thing is roasted chestnuts, even though they’re a bit of a pain!

  3. Megan said

    Ohh yum, I adore chestnuts! Boiling them makes it easier to get the skins off, if you’re just going to puree them, but they don’t get quite the same smoky/toasty flavour. They’re also great pureed and used as a cream between layers of chocolate (cake or otherwise!)… ahh, divine.

  4. jessy said

    yes! yes! if you cut the slits a little bigger they’re much easier to peel. i can peel about 10 in just 5 minutes – try that next time you get stuck with the fresh ones. i think fresh chestnuts are best – they’re one of my favorites, and i can’t believe i’ve never thought to eat them another other way than just roasted. your soup looks wonderful, Erin – it’s the loveliest color and it sounds amazing! especially with the reduction (prunes are soooo underappreciated – i love ‘em though!) and the celeriac. hooray for The Walking Dead, too! I loooooooove all things zombies and i cannot tell ya how excited i am that the show is on! yay! i hope your thanksgiving was the best, Erin – and thanks again for another delicious recipe!

  5. Babette said

    I’ve only cooked with chesnuts once (a recipe from Veganomicon) and it was amazing. I was lucky enough to find prepared chestnuts though. I want to try your soup!

  6. [...] Chestnut & Celeriac Soup with Sherry-Cider Reduction.  As I said in the recipe post, I put a bit too much reduction on the soup – It really only needs a small drizzle. [...]

  7. [...] Last year Flavor Bible Week led to interesting experiments such as Parsnip Spice Muffins, Chestnut-Celeriac Soup, Bean Salad with Herbed Yogurt Dressing, the Lychee-Dori, and Mushroom, Cheddar & Chive [...]

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