I am not big on making soups, so when Alberto put out the call for an international blog buffet of soups under the banner "Is My Blog Burning," I felt it was incumbent upon me to rise to the occasion.
Now, I like the idea of creating soup from scratch, and I certainly enjoy eating soups of all kinds, but the steps involved always seem a little daunting. Is there stock on hand? Will the soup taste good with canned stock? Are all of the ingredients in place? Is there time to prepare and also cook the soup long enough until the flavors come together?
For these reasons, unless I am extremely prepared, I don't tend to get around to making soup very often. But, Alberto's challenge provided the impetus, as well as ample lead time, for me to make some soup. It also didn't hurt that the soup I decided to make was extremely easy to cook.
The soup that I selected, a roasted chestnut soup, is based on a recipe from Mark Bittman which originally appeared in his New York Times column, "The Minimalist." It's a recipe I clipped and held onto until now (for over three years!), and I only regret not making it sooner.
Because Mr. Bittman's "minimalist" approach reduces dishes to their most essential elements, they are uncomplicated recipes which are often also relatively easy to accomplish. This soup recipe only requires chestnuts, celery, onion, chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Moreover, it only takes a few minutes to prepare the ingredients, and just 40 minutes to cook. I had homemade chicken stock in the freezer (though he says canned stock will also work), and I unintentionally saved some time on the chestnuts by using ones that came pre-roasted and vacuum-packed in the jar. I had wanted to roast my own, but chestnuts have disappeared from the stores. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the packaged chestnuts taste quite good.
Making the soup simply requires sweating an onion and celery until they are soft, adding 10 to 15 chestnuts and the chicken stock, and cooking everything together for a half hour. Then, pour the mixture into a blender, puree until smooth, and return the soup to the pot to reheat. The recipe called for adding water at this stage, but this seemed unnecessary. I added the water as indicated, but the soup tasted slightly diluted. To intensify the flavor, I ended up cooking the soup further until it had reduced slightly and the flavors had concentrated. Next time, I would skip adding water at this and only thin the soup with water if it was needed. Serve garnished with sliced celery leaves and chopped chestnuts.
The soup is incredibly rich, and the texture is smooth and velvety even though it has absolutely no cream in it and very little fat (just two tablespoons of butter to sauté the vegetables before adding the chestnuts and stock).
The soup might only be improved upon by sautéing the vegetables with bacon, a variation which Mr. Bittman suggests in his article, but be assured that the soup is perfectly fine as it is.