Chestnut and Fennel Soup

The recipe works best with packaged cooked chestnuts. However, if those are not available, you can easily prepare chestnuts from scratch if you want. Cut a cross, about 1/8 inch deep and wide enough to go to the edges of one side of the chestnut, into the shells (so steam can escape), place on a baking tray cut side up, and roast for 30-35 minutes at 350°F. Cool until cool enough to handle, but still warm, and peel off the shells. This soup has a tendency to thicken over time, so dilute it with water as needed.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about one medium onion)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 2 large ribs)
  • 4 cups chopped fennel (about 2 large bulbs)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 good cooking apples (I used fuji. Jonagold, Jonathan, Golden delicious, or Braeburn would be good, do NOT use red delicious), peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme (or a teaspoon of dried)
  • 15 to 16 ounces of peeled roasted chestnuts (jarred is best), chopped (do NOT use water chestnuts)
  • 4 cups chicken stock (low sodium)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of Pernod or Ricard pastis (optional)
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons of sour cream (more or less to taste)
  • Sprigs of fennel fronds for garnish

Method

1 Cook onion, celery, fennel in butter: Melt butter in a large, thick-bottomed pot (6 to 8 qt) on medium heat. Stir in the chopped onion, celery, and fennel.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent and the fennel and celery softened, about 10 minutes.

cook onions celery fennel for chestnut soup

2 Stir in the chopped roasted chestnuts, chopped apples, and thyme. Add the chicken stock and water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.

stir in chestnuts and apples for chestnut soup add stock to chestnut soup cook chestnut soup

3 Purée the soup: Working in batches, purée in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Remember to fill the blender bowl no more than halfway, and keep your hand pressing down on the top of the blender lid, or the pressure from blending the hot liquid may cause the soup to splatter everywhere.

4 Adjust seasoning, add Pernod and/or sour cream: If too thick, add more water to thin to the consistency you desire. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the Pernod or Pastis if using (or other anise flavored liqueur).

Either stir in sour cream, or dilute the sour cream and drizzle over the bowls at service.

Serve hot, garnish with fennel fronds.