Sorry for the long silence, just in case you wondered why I haven’t posted any new recipes, I’ve been traveling in Europe for two months. Eating my way through the south of France, Alsace, the Pfalz, and Hamburg in Germany and finally Switzerland. So after traveling two wonderful months visiting friends and family, I’m back in Chicago.
Looking back at my recent European trip in the company of great friends, one of the many highlights was Ansouis. A small village in the Luberon region of Provence, to the east of Lourmarin and north of Pertuis and Aix-en-Provence. Ansouis is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Although Ansouis is one of the least visited of the Luberon villages, we also found it to be one of the most attractive.
If you ever make it to Ansouis get up early
What truly amazed me was the tranquility and beauty of the village, quaint medieval houses, some dating back to the 15th century, and quiet ancient streets. Getting up early in the morning and walking the winding streets of Ansouis, sitting on a bench with a freshly brewed cup of coffee listening to the village wake up was special. The sound of church bells ringing, window shutters opening, dogs barking – I truly enjoyed observing the village wake up around me. If you ever make it to Ansouis get up early, brew yourself a good cup of coffee and walk the paved streets to enjoy the tranquility and the beauty of the village.
I have yet to find American chestnuts in Chicago. What I find are mostly Chestnuts flown in straight from Italy. There was a time when everyone could go to the woods in the fall and count on chestnuts for roasting and stuffing their turkey. In 1904, one of the greatest natural disasters in US forest history struck. Blight, a devastating fungus, was discovered on chestnut trees and within a few decades, the chestnut blight had killed over 4 billion chestnut trees on more than 200 million acres in eastern North America. But the good news is that these days, the trees have made a comeback in a major way and are starting to show up in different parts of the country. In case you want to know more, here is an interesting and informative link about the demise and potential revival of the American chestnut tree.
Ten days in Southern France:
When you visit Provence your brain starts to shift toward food and wine; there is no way around it! We were all were drawn to the beautiful French markets. Amazing markets that stretch through the village winding around the paved streets. It’s always an adventure, especially when you are in the south of France. From the stunning local cheeses, olive tapenade, sausage, freshly baked baguette, French butter, and Mediterranean sea salt, we tried it all and washed it down with some great local wines from the Luberon region. Happy times spent with great friends, all of who are wine lovers. There is no better way to spend a week than gathering around to enjoy great food and wine, pondering the mysteries of life, and planning our moves for the next day.
I remember toward the end of the week everyone looked at each other with the “now what” look, as we managed to have about 20 bottles of wine left in the kitchen with just 2 days left before we all departed.
As we battled through the wine inventory, it was obvious that everyone was extremely focused and committed to reducing the inventory.
Going to dinner at La Closerie, a Michelin Star restaurant in the center of Ansouis was one of the great delights of the trip. La Closerie was a pleasant gem just down the street, where the chef loves to show what he and his team can do. Table reservations were made weeks ahead of our trip and the planning was well worth it. The quality of ingredients and the quality of the cooking were absolutely perfect. All of the dishes served were spot on, with amazing flavors and presentations. One of the highlights was a roasted chestnut soup, which inspired me to cook the soup once I got back home. The chestnut soup is a great comfort soup for the fall, winter, and holidays season. Creamy, slightly sweet, and absolutely delicious!
Roasted Chestnut Soup with Cognac Cream
If you’ve never had a roasted chestnut soup, you are missing out.
Creamy, slightly sweet, and absolutely delicious. It’s a treat!
Easy to cook, however, roasting and peeling the chestnuts takes some time and patience.
Pre-boiling the chestnuts before baking makes them soft inside
and makes them easier to remove from the shell.
A great comfort soup for the fall, winter, and holidays season.
The time roasting and peeling chestnuts is well spent.
If you don’t feel like using fresh chestnuts, some stores sell them peeled and ready to go.
Roasted Chestnut Soup
For the Mushroom Stock:
- 12 ounces button mushrooms
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the Soup:
- 1 pound chestnuts fresh
- 2 tbsp butter unsalted
- 1 each onion medium-size, peeled and diced
- 1 tbsp sugar granulated
- 2 ounces Cognac
- 32 ounces chicken stock
- 8 ounces heavy cream
- 1 tbsp Cognac
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
To cook the Mushroom Stock
- Wash mushrooms thoroughly under cold water. Add olive oil to a pot, heat, and sauté for 5 minutes without browning. Cover with water and simmer for one hour. Strain, discard mushrooms. You want to end up with one cup of mushroom concentrate.12 ounces button mushrooms, 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cut the Chestnuts
- Place chestnuts in a bowl and cover with water. I throw out the chestnuts that are floating on top because that's a sign that they are not good. Now comes the "fun" part, with a sharp knife, you have to score each chestnut with an X. Be very careful that you don't cut yourself.1 pound chestnuts
Boil the Chestnuts
- Bring water to a boil and add the chestnuts, cook for 5 minutes. Pre-boiling the chestnuts makes them soft inside and makes them easier to remove from the shell. Preheat oven to 400 F.
Roast the Chestnuts
- Oven roast the chestnuts for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and rest until cool enough to handle. Peel the chestnuts and then set them aside.
Cook the Soup
- In a Dutch oven, melt butter over low heat. Add the diced onions and cook gently for 5 minutes without browning. Add the peeled chestnuts, stir in the sugar, and cook until the sugar caramelizes. Add the Cognac and cook for a minute. Add the mushroom stock and then chicken stock. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the heavy cream and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Reserve about 1/2 ounce of the Cognac for the flavoring of the Cognac cream topping.1 pound chestnuts, 2 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 ounces Cognac, 32 ounces chicken stock, 8 ounces heavy cream, 1 each onion
Puree the Soup
- Transfer to a blender, puree the soup. Strain and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Make the Cognac Cream
- Whip the heavy cream to a soft peak, add 1/2 ounce of Cognac, and blend.1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 tbsp Cognac
- Pour equal amounts of the soup into soup bowls, top with a dollop of the Cognac Cream and croutons.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate