You can tell it’s the Christmas holiday season when you see chestnut bisque make its appearance as one of our soup specials at The Kennebunk Inn. Chef/Owner Shanna O’Hea’s scratch-made chestnut bisque is a seasonal favorite of our customers in southern Maine. It helps to take the chill off and makes for a hearty start to a December meal.
- 2 Each - Celery stalks, medium dice
- 1 Each - Spanish onion, medium dice
- 2 Tablespoons - Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons - Butter, unsalted
- 4 pounds - Chestnuts, peeled and thin skin removed
- 5 Cups - Chicken stock, if store bought use low sodium
- 1 Each - Bouquet Garni, Bay Leaf, thyme and parsley stems tied in bunch
- 2½ Cups - Heavy Cream
- To Taste - Kosher Salt and White Pepper
- To peel chestnuts score the outside fully around with pairing knife
- Place 5 chestnuts at a time in simmering water for two minutes
- Remove from hot water and peel away shell & skin with hands and/or pairing knife
- Place cleaned chestnuts in storage container covered with milk, this helps retain their white/cream color
- When ready to cook chestnuts drain and discard milk
- Sauté onions and celery in olive oil and butter until onions are translucent and celery is cooked (7-10 minutes)
- Add peeled Chestnuts and cover with chicken stock
- Add Bouquet Garni and begin to season with salt and pepper
- Bring soup to boil and then lower to simmer for 30 - 45 minutes
- Remove Bouquet Garni and puree in blender or with emulsion stick until smooth
- Add heavy cream and check seasoning
- Garnish with either toasted whole grain croutons, chive oil or mix of fresh herbs
Chestnuts are expensive and can vary in quality. The best time of year to buy them is December and are typically from either Italy or California. The biggest challenge with chestnuts is when purchasing you can not tell a bad chestnut from a good one until you go through the painful and time staking process of peeling them.
Here are two alternative options to help with a bad chestnut season:
Option One: Speciality food retailers sell vacuum packed already peeled Chestnuts, although a higher price you have no loss and all the work is done. www.sidwainer.com is one of the suppliers we use.
Option Two: Roasted Root Vegetables pair beautifully with chestnuts and can result in an earthier bisque. Replace 2 pounds of the chestnuts with ¾ pound of parsnips, ½ pound of rutabaga, ½ pound of turnip, and ¼ pound of carrots. Cut all root vegetables into medium dice, season and roast in 350 oven in roasting pan with 3 tablespoons olive oil for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through and browned. Add two tablespoons of honey and add to soup before blending smooth.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping on your nose, Yuletide carols being sung by a choir, And folks dressed up like Eskimos.