Yes, chestnuts are delicious roasted over an open fire, but they also work surprisingly well pureed into soup. Roasting them brings out their sweet nutty flavor, adding another dimension to this soup. I love eating this hearty, rich soup in the dead of winter—it’s great as a first course at Christmas dinner, too.
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and bacon over medium heat and cook until golden brown and crispy, turning once, about 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Let it cool slightly, then coarsely chop and set aside.
Add the butter to the pan with the rendered fat and cook until it has melted. Add the chestnuts and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the bacon and chicken stocks, the cold water, and the thyme and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to low, and simmer, partially covered, until the chestnuts have completely softened and the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the thyme sprigs, and let cool, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
Transfer to a blender, in batches, and blend until smooth. Return the soup to the pot that you cooked it in and bring to a simmer. Add the cream and cook until heated through and thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with the bacon and sage.
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