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Carrot Soup with Bacon and Chestnut Cream

Carrot Soup with Bacon and Chestnut Cream
For convenience, look for vacuum-packed chestnuts sold in jars or plastic pouches. The hard outer shells and bitter inner skins have already been peeled away, saving you considerable preparation time. Avoid chestnuts packed in water in cans; they have poor texture and lack flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 4 bacon slices
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, white and light green portions, chopped
  • 2 lb. carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 6 to 8 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock

  • For the chestnut cream:
  • 1/2 cup vacuum-packed chestnuts
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup crème fraîche
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. finely snipped fresh chives

Directions:

In a large saucepan over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. When cool, crumble the bacon and set aside.

Pour off the bacon fat from the pan, return the pan to medium heat and melt the butter. Add the onion and leek and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots, potato and 6 cups of the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially and simmer until all the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the chestnut cream: In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the chestnuts and stock. Cover and cook until the chestnuts are tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender. Add the crème fraîche and a pinch of nutmeg and process until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve. (The cream can be made up to 24 hours in advance, covered and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before serving.)

When the vegetables are done, remove from the heat and process with a stick blender until smooth, or process in a stand blender in batches, then return the soup to the saucepan. If the soup is too thick, add stock as needed to thin to the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. (The soup can be made up to this point up to 24 hours in advance. Let cool, cover and refrigerate. When ready to serve, reheat gently, thinning the soup with more stock if needed.)

Reheat the soup over low heat to serving temperature. Ladle into warmed soup bowls and top each serving with a swirl of the chestnut cream and a sprinkle of the chives and the bacon. Serve immediately.
Serves 8 to 10.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Entertaining, by George Dolese (Oxmoor House, 2004).