Wild Mushroom Chestnut Soup with Autumn Garnishes
It’s a particularly vexing question when one neglected to go grocery shopping over the weekend, so her fresh ingredient stock is limited to onions, baby carrots and a small handful of brussels sprouts. A thorough inspection of the pantry yielded plenty of dry staples, though, and the back corners of the fridge were hiding the jetsam of our Thanksgiving cooking frenzy– a half jar of chestnuts, some leftover sage leaves– quickly on their way out. Time to get creative.
I decided to compose a soup of Dried Wild Mushrooms, Lentils and Chestnuts, using roasted brussels sprouts and fried sage leaves as a garnish. My hope was that this eclectic combination of earthy and sweet flavors would be harmonious rather than cacophonous, with crispy green garnishes offering a pop of welcome color and texture to the smooth, autumnal puree. Since these flavors work so beautifully together in Thanksgiving stuffing, after all, why not a soup? For seasoning, I chose thyme (a classic in stuffing, and one of my favorites), and a small hit of smoked paprika to add depth and richness of flavor in lieu of, say, bacon, which I don’t eat. (You could use chipotle powder to similar effect if you prefer a spicier soup). I didn’t bother using celery in my mirepoix, since I never have it around the house and doubt many of you do, either.
The results were fantastically tasty beyond my expectations. This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian (and easily made vegan if you use Vegetable stock). It is elegant enough to serve to company for a fall or winter dinner party, but easy enough to make for no particular reason on a weeknight. It’s filling enough to be a one-dish meal, thanks to the hearty body that the lentils provide… just load it up with that brussels sprout garnish to get in some greens!
Recipe: Wild Mushroom Chestnut Soup with Autumn Garnishes
1 onion, chopped
2 TBSP olive oil
1 carrot, chopped (or equivalent chopped baby carrots to yield ~ 1/2 cup chopped)
1 oz dried wild mushrooms, soaked in enough boiling water to cover them for at least 30 minutes; reserve the water for the soup
1.5 cups dry lentils
1 cup of jarred whole chestnuts
1 quart (32 ounces) vegetable stock, chicken stock or plain water
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
Garnishes (prepare while soup is simmering):
Roasted brussels sprouts (see directions below)
Fried sage leaves (recipe follows; make LOTS of them. You will want one in every bite of soup… they are so damn tasty.)
- Heat oil in soup pot or large 4 quart saucepan
- Add chopped onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until sweating
- Add the chopped carrots, mushrooms in their soaking water, lentils, chestnuts, stock or water, thyme, paprika, 2 generous pinches of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (optional) to taste
- Cover and bring soup to a boil. When boil is reached, reduce heat and simmer, partly covered, for about 30 minutes or until lentils are soft/cooked well
- While soup is simmering, prepare garnishes below
- When soup is finished cooking, taste for seasoning and add additional salt/paprika as desired. Turn off heat.
- Using an immersion (stick) blender, puree soup in the cooking pot to desired texture. (Alternatively, you can transfer soup to a blender and puree it in batches).
- Serve with roasted brussels sprouts and fried sage leaves as garnishes
- To roast brussels: trim base off of desired quantity of brussels sprouts, and cut them down the middle. Toss them in a bowl with just enough olive oil to kiss them all but not drown or drench… a good rule of thumb is 1-2 TBSP per pound. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast in 400-degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until outside starting to caramelize but the sprouts are not dried out or mushy.
- To fry sage leaves: set aside desired quantity of fresh sage leaves. Trim larger leaves into 2-3 segments if necessary to ensure all leaves are roughly the same size. Heat just enough olive oil in a pan to cover the bottom. When oil is nice and hot, toss in a handful of sage leaves (you may need to do this in batches to prevent overcrowding the pan, which will result in soggy leaves). Fry the sage leaves, stirring constantly, for 5-10 seconds only! (The leaves will get crispy as they cool even though they still appear green). Remove leaves from pan with a slotted spoon or spatula and place on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Sprinkle with a touch of kosher salt.
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