French Fridays with Dorie
Its not often that I am at a complete loss for what I should expect from a recipe but this Chestnut Pear Soup was quite a surprise to me as it was something I quite enjoyed. Usually as I read through a recipe I can pretty much make a good go of knowing if the outcome will be something I would enjoy or not. Not so with Dorie Greenspan’s Chestnut-Pear Soup, this week’s French Friday’s with Dorie assignment project. I mean, who puts pears in soup?
Chestnuts have a delicate, slightly sweet and somewhat nutty flavor more often associated with desserts due to their primary ingredient status in chestnut paste, something you might have on hand if you are lucky enough to have been brought a tube or two from friends who have come from Paris (hint.) This delicacy is good over a glop of ice cream or mixed into a custard tart base, or into a chocolate sauce, coffee cake, etc. The boxes of holiday goodies that arrive at the office each year will also invariably contain a small box of candied chestnuts. I might take a bite but I always regret it as they are quite sweet.
So no, my mind didn’t take to the chestnut as the basis for a soup at all – but Dorie’s did, of course, which is why you see it here today. Her inspiration comes from a chestnut pear tart by Pierre Hermé and it seemed just strange enough an idea to get me back to my Dorista kitchen. (After all, I can’t continue to playfully chastise the other Doristas for culinary squeamishness if I don’t put out for some of these oddities, can I?)
As I set out I realized that my mind doesn’t really take chestnuts anywhere. Yes, I’ve eaten them before, of course. But not very often and I can’t tell you where or when. I just have. Chestnuts harvest this time of year so they are invariably associated with the holidays, yet they haven’t ever been a part of my holiday tradition. I haven’t roasted a single chestnut over an open fire. Ever. I’ve not seen one of my friends do it either yet several of them buy them each year to put near their open fires in decorative baskets to suggest that at any moment will will discover them and become Norman Rockwell paintings.
“Hey! Lets sing carols and roast these chestnuts!”
“Not just now. I had planned on us trimming the tree. Can someone help me pour the bourbon into the egg nog?”
The promise of alcohol is always just enough to distract my friends. The basket of chestnuts will remain intact.
I have encountered street carts of roasted chestnuts in my travels but I can be counted on to breeze right by them without interest. To my mind these carts have struck me as the type of thing tourist manuals warn you against eating from. Now that this chestnut pear soup has reminded how good their delicate flavor is I might not be so inclined to pass one by again.
Chestnut Pear Soup
As with most soup recipes, there isn’t much to this one and if you have made soup at all you too can reason this one out easily enough. The recipe calls for a large jar of chestnuts which may not be an easy find for most people. Does your supermarket have a chestnut section? Mine doesn’t. Dorie suggests that frozen chestnuts will work in a pinch but that helpful tip wasn’t so I did as I usually do when it comes to these hard-to-find items and ordered them from Amazon. (I understand most of my Dorista compatriots did as well so it gave me a small chuckle to think of the Amazon food vendors wondering why such a rush on French jars of chestnuts?)
In two tablespoons of butter you lightly sauté one chopped onion, 5 finely chopped stalks of celery, and the light green and white portion of two leeks until slightly soft. (About ten minutes.) Add to this 2 cored and cubed pears, 1 large jar of chestnuts, one sprig each of thyme and rosemary, salt and pepper, and 6 cups of chicken stock. (For this soup I used a commercial stock and not my home made stash. It was a wise choice as I think the less hearty stock allowed the chestnut flavor out enough to balance with the savory flavors and not get lost. )
Simmer gently until the chestnuts are soft and mashable, like a potato, so that you can puree when done. About 45 minutes. Puree in batches in a blender or food processor, adjust the salt and pepper and there you have it. Garnish with a swirl of cream and a rosemary leaf or use some chopped chestnuts or pears.
A scaled down version of this recipe can be found here as well.
This Chestnut-Pear Soup was an assignment for French Friday’s with Dorie, a cooking group working its way through Dorie Greenspan’s culinary tome “Around My French Table”. We generally avoid including the recipes in our posts. However, wherever there has been a significant adaptation by me or where the recipe has already been publicly posted by Ms. Greenspan or her publishers or by hundreds of other bloggers, or it is, in fact, not much of a recipe at all, I will either include it here (adapted) or provide a direct link to it. Please feel free to contact me via the link provided on my page if you need any assistance finding a French Friday with Dorie Recipe. You should buy the book though.
It will change your life as it has mine.