In the early 1900s here in North America the chestnut blight pretty well decimated all the chestnut trees.
Happily (shhhhh – don’t tell the locavores!) we can get chestnuts from Italy, France, Spain, even (again, shhhh….) China! Mmmmm…
I see fresh chestnuts in the groceries this time of year, but pre-roasted pre-shelled vacuum-packed packages are available pretty much year round.
I will say, though, that I think of chestnuts as cold-weather food. I mean, there’s that whole “roasting on an open fire” thing, right?? And, this winter (or at least at the moment) we are having winter here in central Texas!
So, I made soup.
This has got to be about the easiest soup I’ve come up with so far. It isn’t perhaps, the most beautiful as it is somewhat beige, but it is tasty, filling, hearty, and (I’m pretty sure, anyway) good for you! See, chestnuts are actually pretty good for you, if you believe Wikipedia (and other sources).
Chestnuts are relatively low in fat, and are (again, Wikipedia says…) the only nut that contains vitamin C! I hope this is all true because I love them! They are sweet, mild, and make a fine thickener for soups. They add flavor without overpowering and play nicely with others.
I am happy to eat chestnuts pretty much any way they are offered to me. I love the paper bag of fresh-roasted burn your thumbs peeling them, keep your fingers toasty as you walk around Manhattan, winter in New York thing, but honestly I am happy to forgo all that work and use the bagged kind for baking or soup. Does that make me a bad person?
Lazy perhaps, but (I hope) not really bad…
Anyway, I made (as I told you before I got off track) soup. And it was good! Here’s all I did:
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium to large yellow or white onion peeled and rough chopped
2 small (5 or 6 ounce) bags of roasted and peeled chestnuts (about 2 cups)
3-4 large yukon gold or other yellow (not baking) potatoes (about 1.5 lbs)
milk (as needed)
salt and pepper
Put the olive oil in a large deep heavy soup pot. Add the chopped onions and sauté until translucent (do not brown). Add the chestnuts and rough chopped potatoes (nope, I didn’t peel them). Add water to just cover, bring to a boil, turn down and simmer until the potatoes are very soft (20-30 minutes should do it).
Purée with a stick blender, add salt and pepper to taste, and add milk if desired to dilute it a bit and make it even creamier. Enjoy!
Like most soups this is better the second day, but if you are cold and hungry (or at least hungry) it is fine pretty much immediately (she said modestly). Let us know if you try it, or just let us know how you like your chestnuts, OK? Mmmm… stay warm and safe!
Oh and why “old chestnut”? Here you go: old chestnut