Lake House, Victoria, Australia
In the late 19th century, Swiss–Italian settlers ventured to Australia, lured by the country’s gold deposits. They didn't all strike it rich, but many planted chestnut trees, which are now treasured by chefs like Alla Wolf-Tasker, who uses local chestnuts to make this elegant soup during the autumn and winter months Down Under. She served it as an hors d'oeuvre at the James Beard House, but we've modified the recipe to yield four starters.
- 3 1/2 cups fresh chestnuts
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 small shallots, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons porcini powder, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon Armagnac
- 1 tablespoon dry sherry
- 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 3/4 cup cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh black truffles or 1/4 teaspoon premium truffle paste
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Using a small serrated knife, cut a cross in the skin of the round side of each chestnut. Place the chestnuts on a baking tray and roast until browned and the skins begin to burst, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle but still warm, peel the nuts. Discard the shells and skins.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the chestnuts. Raise the heat and cook, stirring, until the chestnuts are golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in the porcini powder, Armagnac, sherry, and balsamic vinegar. Continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the alcohol has cooked off.
Add the water and cream. Stir, scraping up any residue from the bottom of the pot. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chestnuts are very tender when pierced with a knife.
Purée the soup in a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender. Return the soup to the pot and reheat for serving. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Just before serving, stir in the fresh truffle or truffle paste; sprinkle with porcini powder.