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Chestnut and Roasted Fennel Soup

Serves 6 - 8

The delicate and inviting flavor of this soup comes mainly from the roasted bulb fennel.  The pureed chesnuts give it a richness without being creamy. GlacÚd chestnuts add a welcomed texture to the smooth soup base and a few TBS of Pernod or Sambucca added just before serving will win raves from licorice lovers.

Ingredients

2 large bulbs fresh fennel
3 stalks celery (string removed)
3/4 can unsweetened chestnut puree
6 cups chicken broth
3 TBS butter
1/4 cup flour
4 - 6 TBS dry sherry

Soup Preparation

  1. Trim the outside of each bulb fennel with a potato peeler to remove the older, coarse outer layer without removing the whole outer leaf. Cut each fennel bulb in half, lengthwise and place in a flat, oiled roasting pan. Cut celery stalks into quarters and add to the same roasting. Add ╝ cup of water to the roasting pan and lay a piece of foil over the pan. Roast in a 350░ oven for about 45 minutes (or until the fennel is very tender). Remove from the oven and cool.
  2. Put all the roasted vegetables through the finest mesh of Mouli grinder to remove the strings. Retain the vegetable pulp and discard the stringy remains.
  3. In a deep saucepan, melt 3 TBS butter and stir in ╝ flour to make a roux. Keeping the saucepan over a low flame, gradually,add the chicken broth, 1/3 cup each time.  Fully incorporate each addition before adding the next one. Add 5 cups of broth in this way.
  4. Add the chestnut puree, the vegetable pulp and then add enough chicken broth to bring the soup to a desired consistency. Add the sherry, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Let the soup cook over a over low flame for about 15 minutes to bring the flavor together.

Garnish Preparation

  1. To a shallow sauce pan, add one can of whole, peeled chestnuts, 3 TBS sugar, 4 TBS chicken broth and 4 TBS sherry.
  2. Cook uncovered over a moderate flame, stirring frequently (but gently so as not to break up the whole chestnuts) to preventing sticking as the liquid boils down and the sugar begins to become syrupy. When the chestnuts are coated with a sugar syrup (glaceed), set aside to cool.

Serving

  1. Ladle the hot soup into shallow bowls and decorate with a few glaceed chestnuts.
  2. For those who like a licorice flavor, you could drizzle a few tsp. of Sambucca or Pernod over the top. Sherry, added just before serving, gives the soup a nutty flavor.
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