Autumn is here and we received our first squash in our weekly share from the farm. This time of year reminds me of when we used to harvest chestnuts in Ardeche, known in France as “chestnut country”. They were so common to us that we would use them in every dish, from soup, to main course accompaniment to desserts. So I decided to pair the acorn squash with chestnut into a soup today.
Typically, when using for soup, we would boil the chestnuts as opposed to roasting them so they would be more tender, moist and reveal a more subtle flavor.
Ingredients for about 6-8 servings:
About 30 chestnuts
1 acorn squash
2 garlic cloves
A few springs of thyme and/or marjoram
2 to 3 cups water
Olive oil, freshly ground salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375F.
First, wash and cut the acorn squash in half.
With a large spoon, scoop out the seeds and slightly scrape the hollowed space to remove the fibrous pieces.
Brush the cut sides with olive oil and place them down into a baking dish. Bake for about 50-60 minutes, until the outer shell of the squash is tender to the touch.Pelling the chestnuts is time consuming. This is not a task that one would typically do by themselves. Enrolling the help of others is more fun and efficient. Peel the outer skin of the chestnut with a strong serrated paring knife, starting at the tip on the flat side.
Continue peeling off the outer skin this way, leaving the inner skin attached to the chestnut, all the way around to the wider end.
Finally, remove the cap at the wider end.
When all the chestnuts are peeled, set aside.
When the acorn squash is cooked, remove from the oven, turn the halves over and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Chop half an onion and two cloves of garlic.
Place about a tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of a medium size pot and heat the oil. Add the chopped onion and reduce the heat to soften and slightly brown.
Meanwhile, scoop out the flesh of the acorn squash with a large spoon.
Grossly chop the cooked squash country style.
Add the squash, garlic, and either 2 or 3 cups of water depending on whether you want more of a stewed/pureed texture or more liquid consistency. Add salt and pepper at this time.
Remove the leaves of thyme and marjoram from the stems.
Add to the soup and simmer about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and plunge the chestnuts. Return to a boil and cook at a medium roll for about 30 minutes. The chestnuts should become very tender and the inner skin should detach easily.
Once the chestnuts are cooked, drain them (the water will have turned reddish brown) and peel the second skin immediately while they are hot. If the chestnuts cool, they’ll become hard to peel as the inner skin will adhere back to the chestnut. If this happens, plunge them back into boiling water for a few minutes.
Chop the chestnuts into large pieces, reserving the nicer looking ones for decoration.
Add the chopped chestnuts to the soup.
Heat again for about 5 minutes.
Serve in bowls along with a spring of thyme and a whole chestnut for decoration. Enjoy a hearty dish!