Perfect Chestnut Soup
8 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups whole roasted chestnuts (about 1½ pounds)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 leek, mostly white parts, well rinsed and chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
7½ cups vegetable broth
½ cup Madeira wine
2 or more parsley sprigs, chopped
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Fresh ground pepper
To roast chestnuts: Choose fresh, firm unwrinkled chestnuts with no signs of spores. On the flat side of each chestnut, take a small knife and cut an “X” from one end to the other. Make sure you cut all the way through the shell. Lay the chestnuts in one layer in an oven-proof dish. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 25-30 minutes, until the cuts peel back naturally from the heat. Cool only slightly. Peel off the outer shell and the fuzzy skin and set nuts aside.
In a heavy saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add chestnuts and sauté until heated through, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy, large soup pot over medium heat. Add carrot, parsnip, leek and celery; sauté until soft, about 7 minutes. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Add the chestnuts, Madeira wine, parley, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Continue to simmer for another 15 minutes.
Purée the soup in batches in a food processor or blender. Transfer the puréed soup to a large soup pot and reheat, stirring frequently.
When it’s thoroughly heated, ladle the soup into bowls. Top it off with a sprinkling of cayenne pepper.