Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rich, Spicy, Velvety Butternut Squash and Chestnut Soup


Last week I admitted being overly zealous upon spotting the first canned pumpkin of the season. You know, buying six or eight cans of the stuff in October only to have it collecting dust in my pantry in February.

Here's what I didn't tell you: Sitting next to those cans of pumpkin are three boxes of vacuum-sealed chestnuts. After waiting weeks for the them to show up at Trader Joe's last November, I bought four boxes. Then my mom sent me four more in a Christmas care-package. Eight boxes of chestnuts is too much for anyone.

Chestnut stuffing is a decidedly Thanksgiving-only food, so over the last few weeks, we've enjoyed savory chestnut pancakes, easy pasta with chestnuts, pancetta and marsala wine, and lots of butternut squash and chestnut soup. With 20 chestnuts per batch, this soup is ideal for using up those leftover chestnuts. You'll love the scents of spicy cinnamon, nutmeg and fresh sage wafting through your kitchen as the soup bubbles away, but not as much as you'll love the creamy texture and rich, soothing flavors. Although this soup is delicious the day it's made, it's even better the next day and makes tasty leftovers.

I actually have three more large butternut squash sitting on my counter top waiting to be used. Maybe I should go to Trader Joe's and see if they have anymore chestnuts.

Velvety Butternut Squash and Chestnut Soup
Serves 6-8
Printable recipe.

1 (1 1/2-2 pound) butternut squash (about 4 cups cooked)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus a little for brushing the squash
1 yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
3 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
4 cups water low-sodium vegetable broth
8 ounces of bottled or vacuum packed chestnuts (about 20 chestnuts or 1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus extra for garnish
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole milk (or half milk, half cream)
1 tablespoon butter at end

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees F. Slice butternut squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Brush the flesh with a little bit of olive oil. Roast flesh side down on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet for 40-45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Let cool slightly before scooping out flesh. Discard skin.

2. In a deep pot over medium heat, warm oil. Saute onions, celery and carrots for 5-7 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. Add the cooked squash and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add chestnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and sage. Turn off heat, and let cool 5-10 minutes before pureeing.

3. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth and return to the pot over low heat. Add the milk and salt and pepper, and stir occasionally until the soup is thoroughly heated, about 10 minutes. Just prior to serving, stir in 1 tablespoon butter to the soup for added creaminess and depth of flavor. Taste it. Add salt and pepper as necessary. Garnish individual servings with fresh herbs, if desired.

You might also enjoy these recipes featuring chestnuts:
Italian Lentil and Chestnut Stew recipe from Mostly Eating
Creamy Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup recipe from Food Blogga
Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Pancetta recipe from Angie's Recipes
Rigatoni with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Marsala Wine recipe from Food Blogga
Duck Tagine with Chestnuts recipe from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook