Chestnut and Black Truffle Soup (a.k.a Marriage Proposal Soup)

This recipe from Chef Lisa Nakamura of Allium Restaurant on Orcas Island comes with a special story:

"I made this soup while I was working in Napa, back in the '90s. We were having Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's, and I decided to make this soup.

"This soup turned out to be a huge hit, so much so that it got me a marriage proposal, and NOT from my boyfriend, who was sitting at the same table. Henceforth, I have called it my Marriage Proposal Soup."


Serves 6

Cook's note: You will need to make a mushroom stock first.

Mushroom Stock

• 1 lb white button mushrooms
• 1 carrot, peeled and cut into one inch segments
• 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into one inch segments
• 1 sprig fresh thyme
• 1 bay leaf
• about 10 whole black peppercorns

Wash and slice the mushrooms as thin as you can. Place them in a large pot with the rest of the ingredients. Add 6 cups of water. Bring the pot up to the boil, and then let it simmer for 2 hours. Strain the stock and discard the vegetables. The stock can be cooled, then refrigerated for up to one week. If the stock has evaporated during cooking, that's fine. It will just intensify the flavor. You should ideally have about four cups of stock left.

Chestnut and Black Truffle Soup

• 2 lbs whole chestnuts
• 1 medium onion
• 2 T unsalted butter
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 3 T black truffle peelings
• 1 T white truffle oil
• 2 cups heavy cream
• salt and pepper to taste

To peel the chestnuts, score an X in the shells on the flat side. Dunk the chestnuts in boiling water for about five minutes, or until the shells start to soften and can be peeled away. Alternatively, after scoring the chestnuts, place them on a baking sheet and roast them in a 350 degree oven until the shells start to curl at the scoring and can be peeled away. Make sure to remove the inner skin that lines the shell.

Or...buy frozen chestnuts. They do not need to be whole pieces as you will be pureeing the soup.

In a heavy pot, melt the butter. Peel the onion and cut into half inch chunks. Sweat the onions in the butter until they are translucent. Add about a teaspoon of kosher salt to the onions as they are cooking.

Add the wine (do not use your fancy expensive wine here; a cheaper wine is just the ticket, such as a neutral Sauvignon Blanc) and let it cook until it has evaporated.

Add the peeled chestnuts and the mushroom stock, which was made ahead of time. Add the truffle peelings and cream. Cook the soup until the chestnuts are tender and ready to fall apart.

In a blender, blend the soup in batches. When you are blending a hot liquid, be very careful Only fill the bowl of the blender to the half way point and start the blender on the SLOWEST speed possible. Make sure the lid is secure, and hold the lid down with a dry kitchen towel. Hot liquids expand rapidly in a blender and can cause serious burns.

Blend the soup until velvety. Taste for salt and pepper, adding more if needed.

Just before serving, add a splash of white truffle oil to each portion.

Chestnuts are starchy. This soup can be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated for up to three days, or frozen for up to a month. It will thicken as it sits. If the soup is too thick, thin it out with a water until it has the consistency of heavy cream. Adjust the seasonings as needed. If it is too thin, cook it over low heat, stirring frequently, until it attains the right consistency.

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This recipe is the property of Lisa K. Nakamura and Allium Restaurant and cannot be sold or re-printed without previous approval.