One of the highlights of the 2011 Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival was the Beard Down South dinner at Buccan in Palm Beach.
A number of chefs participated, including Dean Max, of 3800 Ocean at Singer Island’s Marriott, and of 3030 Ocean in the Harbor Beach Marriott in Fort Lauderdale.
Along with a local wahoo first course, Max made these shots of Chestnut soup that were a hit all around. He admits the recipe is so simple – and it is, except for his meat crouton. His recipe calls for guanciale – a smoked pork cheek meat, available from some Italian specialty shops. We couldn’t find one anywhere locally that carried it, so Max suggests a crouton of slab bacon, fried, to achieve the same result. (Update: Dean Max suggests looking for guanciale from La Quercia Foods, sold in many Whole Foods markets or through custom orders at Whole Foods.)
Since chestnuts are only in stores for a short time, capitalize on them by buying extras, and making extra soup for the freezer – this will freeze well.
Serve the soup in 3-ounce shots for a party, as above. To fill the little glasses easily, use a funnel-spout pitcher, useful also for making pancakes, funnel cakes or filling cupcake molds.
Dean Max’s Chestnut Soup
- 1 pound chestnuts, peeled
- 3 shallots, peeled, minced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons cognac
- 8 cups (2 quarts) chicken stock (low sodium, preferably)
- 1 cup heavy cream, divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 pound slab bacon, cut into small cubes, fried crisp
Peel the chestnuts: With flat side down on a kitchen towel, score the end of each nut with a sharp knife in an X pattern. Boil the chestnuts in a small pot for 4 minutes; drain well and pat dry. Spread chestnuts onto a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until edges of cut shell begin to peel slightly. Remove and cool; finish peeling with a knife. Set nuts aside.
Melt butter over medium heat in a medium soup pot. Add shallots and cook till wilted. Add sugar and stir; cook to caramelize sugar. Once sugar is browned and caramelized, add cognac and stir to deglaze pot. Add chestnuts and chicken stock; bring mixture to a boil. Cook for 1 minute and reduce heat to a slight simmer; cook for 20 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup cream and stir well. Pour mixture into a blender to fill 3/4 full (you will need to process several batches, depending on your blender size). Puree soup, taking care to secure lid with kitchen towel, and gradually increasing speed of blender from low to puree. Strain puree into clean pitcher through fine sieve; repeat with remainder of soup. Season with salt and pepper.
Whip remaining cream to soft peaks with cinnamon.
To serve, place cubes of bacon in each glass or bowl (2 cubes per glass or 6 cubes per bowl); ladle or pour soup over all. Dollop each serving with a small spoon of whipped cinnamon cream.
Serves 8 bowls, or makes approximately 35 party-shot servings.