4 cups raw chestnuts in shell
1/3 cup carrot, medium dice
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ cup onion, medium dice
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided
2 tablespoons salt
¼ cup brandy
2 ½ quarts water
¼ cup butter plus 3 teaspoons, divided
½ cup pears, peeled and small dice
½ cup parsnips, peeled and small dice
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. With a paring knife, score a deep cross on the round side of each chestnut. Place scored nuts on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes. When done, carefully and quickly remove the shells while the nuts are still warm. The shelling process will be more difficult if the nuts are allowed to cool. Finely dice ½ cup of the chestnuts and reserve for garnish.
Heat 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high flame, and cook the carrots and onions until they start to brown lightly, about 5-6 minutes. Add chestnuts, garlic, shallots and butter. Cook for another 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the vegetables and chestnuts are dark brown and caramelized, remove pot from flame and deglaze with brandy, scraping up all the brown bits left on the bottom of the pan. Return the pot to the flame and add the water and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour.
While soup is cooking, prepare the garnish. Blanch parsnips in boiling salted water until tender but not soft, about 1 minute. Strain and shock in ice water. When cool, remove parsnips from water and set aside. In a very hot pan, sauté reserved chopped chestnuts in 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil until they begin to caramelize. Season with salt and finish with 1 teaspoon butter. Remove from pan and reserve. Wipe out pan and individually repeat procedure with parsnips and pears. Add a little sugar to the pears while in the pan if they are underripe. Combine pears, parsnips and chestnuts.
When soup is finished, puree it in a blender (this should be done in 3 or 4 batches) and pass through a chinois. Adjust seasoning if necessary. When blending hot liquid it is important not to fill the blender more than halfway; as the liquid purees the volume will increase.
To serve, spoon a desired amount of garnish in a soup bowl and ladle approximately 1 cup of hot soup over the top.
From Nicholas, The Cookbook,by Nicholas Harary with Peter Zuorick.