This soup has a sweetness and complexity of flavor. Its richness is compounded by a quenelle of mascarpone in each portion, added just before serving. The garnish can include Virginia ham in addition to caramelized bits of chestnuts.
Make Ahead: The chestnuts can be prepped up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate or freeze them. The soup can be made 1 day in advance, then reheated over low heat until warmed through. Add chicken broth if the soup has thickened too much.
- For the soup and sachet
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh whole chestnuts
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium shallot, cut into quarters
- 1 medium clove garlic, smashed
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 stem flat-leaf parsley
- 5 whole black peppercorns
- For the garnishes
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
- 1 cup peeled chestnuts, cut into small dice (prepped in the first part of the recipe)
- 2 ounces Virginia ham, cut into small dice (optional)
- 4 scallions, white and light green parts cut crosswise, then finely chopped
- 4 ounces mascarpone
- Freshly grated zest of 1/2 medium lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground green peppercorns
For the soup: Score the chestnuts and place them in a microwave. Cook on HIGH for 3 minutes; peel while hot. Reserve a generous 1 cup of them for the garnish.
Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until it is light brown, being careful not to burn it. Add all but the reserved cup of peeled chestnuts; cook until they are golden brown. Add the shallot and garlic and a pinch of salt, stirring to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the vegetables are soft. Add the honey and cook until the chestnuts are slightly caramelized.
Add the vinegar and let the mixture start bubbling; transfer the mixture to a large soup pot and add the chicken broth. Heat over medium-high heat.
Use a small piece of cheesecloth and kitchen twine to make a sachet for the following ingredients: the bay leaf, thyme, parsley and the black peppercorns. Add the sachet to the soup; bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Puree the soup in batches in a blender, being careful when dealing with hot liquids (an immersion blender also can be used); taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
For the garnishes: Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the reserved diced chestnuts and the diced Virginia ham, if using, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the bits are slightly caramelized. Remove from the heat and add the scallions, tossing to combine.
Combine the mascarpone, lemon zest and green peppercorns in a small bowl, stirring gently to mix well. Season with salt to taste.
Place a tablespoon or two of the garnish in the bottom of each bowl, then pour the hot soup on top.
Use a tableware teaspoon to scoop a portion of the mascarpone mixture, then use a second spoon to form the mascarpone into an oval shape (called a quenelle). Do this as you divide the soup among individual small bowls. Gently lower a quenelle of mascarpone into each portion. Serve immediately.
Adapted from chef Michael Mina.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.