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Cooking

Three cheers for chestnuts

These silky-smooth soups are perfect fall and winter warmers.

Chestnut and mushroom soup.

Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

Chestnut and mushroom soup.

I am chestnut-obsessed. As a kid I hated them, but as an adult I can barely get enough when they’re in season. I eat them roasted to just nibble on, in pilafs and stuffings, with pasta, and — my absolute favorite — in creamy, earthy soups. Both savory and sweet, chestnuts not only stand on their own but also combine well with other things like mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and chorizo. Chestnuts puree beautifully, giving these soups a silky consistency. They’re suitable as a first course for a special dinner or as a casual dinner themselves with crostini and a salad.

CHESTNUT AND MUSHROOM SOUP

Makes about 2½ quarts

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

2½ tablespoons butter

1 leek, white and light green parts thinly sliced in half-moons (2 cups)

1 celery rib, chopped

Salt and pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon minced

fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

6 sprigs fresh parsley

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

2½ cups (1 14.8-ounce jar) roasted chestnuts, chopped

¼ cup amontillado sherry

2/3 cup half-and-half

2 teaspoons olive oil

6 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

In a bowl, cover the porcini with 4 cups boiling water and leave for 15 minutes. Saving the liquid, lift out the softened porcini, chop finely, and set aside. Pour 2 cups of the liquid into another container, taking care to leave grit behind, and set aside.

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In a covered nonstick Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons butter. Add the leek, celery, and 1 teaspoon salt, and saute until heated through, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and parsley, and saute 1 minute. Adjust the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have released their juices, about 8 minutes. Add the broth, chestnuts, chopped porcini, and the 2 cups of the porcini liquid, adjust heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Adjust heat to very low, cover, and simmer until chestnuts are very tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and parsley.

In a blender (in batches) or with an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Strain if desired, then return soup to the pot. Add 2 tablespoons sherry, the half-and-half, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste, and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, adjust the heat to low, cover, and keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and remaining butter. Add the cremini mushrooms and ½ teaspoon salt, and cook until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining sherry and, using a wooden spoon, scrape bottom of pan to loosen and dissolve the fond, about 30 seconds. Simmer vigorously, stirring, until the sherry is nearly all evaporated, about 1 minute longer; set aside off heat.

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Serve the soup at once, garnishing with sauteed mushrooms and chives.

CHESTNUT AND SWEET POTATO SOUP

Makes about 3 quarts

2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

6 sprigs fresh parsley

Salt and pepper

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

2½ cups (one 14.8-ounce jar) roasted chestnuts, chopped

1 medium-large sweet potato (12 ounces), peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons brandy or cognac

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus extra for garnish

In a covered nonstick Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter. Add the onion, celery, rosemary, bay leaf, parsley, and ½ teaspoon salt, and saute the vegetables until heated through, about 3 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have released their juices, about 8 minutes. Add the broth, 1 cup water, chestnuts, and sweet potato, adjust heat to medium-high, and bring liquid to a boil. Adjust heat to very low, cover, and simmer until chestnuts and sweet potatoes are very tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and parsley.

In a blender (in batches) or with an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add the honey, brandy, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste, and heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve at once, garnishing with grated nutmeg.

CHESTNUT SOUP WITH TOMATOES AND CHORIZO

Makes about 3 quarts

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ pound cured chorizo, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 large onion, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1½ teaspoons paprika

1 bay leaf

6 sprigs fresh parsley, plus ¼ cup chopped

Salt and pepper

1 28-ounce can petite-diced tomatoes

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

2½ cups (one 14.8-ounce jar) roasted chestnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons brandy

2/3 cup half-and-half

In a covered nonstick Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Leaving the fat, remove chorizo to paper towels. Add the onion, carrots, garlic, paprika, bay leaf, parsley sprigs, and ½ teaspoon salt to the pot, and cook until vegetables are heated through, about 4 minutes. Adjust heat to medium-low, cover, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have released their juices, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, set aside 1 cup of the diced tomatoes, leaving the juice. Add the rest of the tomatoes with the juice, the broth, ½ cup water, and chestnuts to the pot, adjust heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Adjust heat to very low, cover, and simmer until chestnuts are very tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and parsley sprigs.

In a blender (in batches) or with an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Strain if desired and return to the pot. Add the brandy, half-and-half, chorizo, reserved tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste, and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add the chopped parsley and serve at once.

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