Roasted Chestnut Soup with Spiked Bacon & Green Apple Garnish, Smoky Goat Cheese Dollop

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." Or, in the oven.

Either way, you can't beat the cozy, cheerful vibes and enticing aromas a pan of roasting chestnuts brings to your home. The best way to maximize those beautifully roasted chestnuts? In a creamy, elegant soup that's a real winner. Don't believe me? I made this soup as part of a chestnut-centric menu for a cook-off two years ago. Guess who won? Moi.

Have plans for an intimate holiday gathering with a few friends and not sure what to serve? Make this delicious soup and all its trimmings, put out some crusty bread and a simple salad with winter greens, cranberries and a bright vinaigrette, and you've got a gorgeous meal. (Don't forget the wine!)

Roasted Chestnut Soup
4 cups of peeled chestnuts, chopped
4 TBS butter
2 leeks, green and white parts chopped (clean thoroughly to remove grit)
2 celery stalks, chopped
2-3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
7 cups chicken stock
8 sprigs fresh thyme (tied in a bundle with cooking twine)
Dash or two of nutmeg
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream (or half and half, if you must)

Moderate MESS/ingredients/clean-up: Category 4

To Do:
  • Heat oven to 425 degrees. 
  • Lightly grease 1-2 cookie sheets and spread the chopped chestnuts in the pan evenly, so they aren't crowded. Roast in the oven until browned, 30 mins max. Note: I bought 1 1/2 lbs of whole chestnuts and roasted them the day before. If you want to save yourself some time and agony (peeling them actually hurts your hands), just buy a few bags of pre-peeled chestnuts at the store and follow the roasting instructions above. They work perfectly fine for soup. But, if you still want to buy them whole, here's how to do it.
  • Melt butter in a large soup pot over med-high heat. 
  • Add leeks and celery and cook until soft, about 5 mins. 
  • Stir in the apples and chestnuts, then turn heat down to med-low. 
  • Cover pot and cook about 15 mins. 
  • Add broth, thyme bundle and nutmeg and bring to a boil. 
  • Lower heat again and simmer about 30 mins, partially covered. 
  • Remove from heat , discard thyme bundle, and purée. 
  • Run purée through strainer/chinois, to get a smooth, thinned texture, then return to a smaller pot and stir in cream and salt/pepper to your taste.
  • Heat through.
  • Adjust seasonings, then add bacon/apple garnish to bowls, ladle soup over garnish and top with the goat cheese mixture.
Spiked Bacon & Green Apple Garnish, Smoky Goat Cheese Dollop
2 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 large, Granny Smith apple, cored and diced
2 TBS Calvados
1/4 tsp thyme
Dash or two of nutmeg
1 tsp honey
1 TBS heavy cream/half and half
2 TBS goat cheese, softened
Smoked salt

Minimal MESS/ingredients/clean-up: Category 1

To Do:
  • Cook the bacon in a medium pan until browned, then add the apple and Calvados and cook down, about 5 mins. 
  • Remove from heat then stir in nutmeg and thyme. 
  • Set aside, but keep warm. 
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, cream, goat cheese and smoked salt until light in texture. 
  • Add a large spoonful of the bacon/apple mix to the center of each soup bowl, then ladle the hot soup over it.  
  • Top each serving of soup with a small dollop of the goat cheese. 
  • Optional flair: once added to soup, gently pull through goat cheese mixture with a toothpick to make swirls. 

'Tis the Season for Great Cooking!