Starting off my Christmas Dinner was a new soup. What caught my attention is how this recipe embodies the ideals of seasonal cooking. As I get more into winter cooking I am working more and more with roots, things that are dried or dehydrated, nut or beans, and all the things that are preserved in my pantry.
To kick off this recipe I had to start with a stock. Rather than the typical meat stocks like chicken or beef, or even a vegetable stock, this recipe calls for a dashi. Essentially that’s a flavored water. For this recipe it has you make a Kombu dashi. Kombu is referred to as the “King of Seaweed”. To make it is simple enough.
FOR THE DASHI:
- 1 ounce Kombu
- 3 quarts Water
- ½ teaspoon Fine Sea Salt
All all the ingredients to a 4 quart stock pot. Place on the stove over medium heat. As soon as it start to boil turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes. Then just strain out the seaweed and it’s ready to use.
This recipe also called for Crème Fraîche. Although this is super easy to pick up in most supermarkets I wanted to try the recipe for the homemade version. This is yet another of those fun and weird kitchen science experiments.
FOR THE CRÈME FRAÎCHE:
- 1 tablespoon Buttermilk
- 2 cups Heavy Cream
Simply add the buttermilk to the ream in a pint sized mason jar. Close using their plastic screw top lids. Shake vigorously. Loosen the top so it’s just barely closed. Let it sit on the counter at room temperature for 36 hours!
After that time tighten the lid and shake again. Taste. If it needs to be more sour let it sit for longer. If you like where it’s at tighten the lid and refrigerate till ready to use.
(This will have a much more dusting smell than the normal store bought stuff but I still found it quite enjoyable.)
For the soup itself you’ll need 8 ounces of peeled chestnuts. This can be involved if you are wanting to peel them yourself so do this a day ahead and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. You’ll also need sunchokes. These little knobby roots are actually the roots to sunflowers. They can be a bit of a chore to clean but breaking them apart to get in all the crevasses is ok since this soup will be puréed.
FOR THE SOUP:
- 5 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 2 Leeks, finely sliced
- 2 pounds Sunchokes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
- 8 ounces Chestnuts, cooked and peeled
- 8 cups Kombu Dashi
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- ½ teaspoon Whole Cane Sugar
- Freshly Ground Back Pepper
- 2 tablespoons Fresh Thyme leaves, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup Creme Fraîche
- 2 tablespoons Pumpkin Seed Oil
In a large sauté pan melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the diced leeks and a good pinch of salt and stir until softened and translucent. Add the sunchokes and half of the chestnuts along with the dashi. Stir and add another pinch of salt and stir again. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the sunchokes can easily be pierced with a wooden spoon.
Meanwhile mince the rest of the chestnuts. Melt the remaining butter with the olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan. Once the bubble from the butter have stopped add the chestnuts, sugar, a pink of salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Toss occasionally until golden brown. Remove from the heat and toss with the thyme.
Once the soup is done simmering purée in a blender in batches or with a immersion blender. Return the soup to the pot and add the Crème Fraîche. Stir well. At this point check for thickness. I fount it was thicker than I liked so I added more of my dashi. In the end I liked something thinner, more like a bisque. If the soup is being served with other food it might seem too thick otherwise.
To serve ladle some of the soup into warmed bowls. Four ounces makes a great starter or six ounces as a side. Add another small dollop of the crème fraîche sprinkle with the toasted chestnuts and drizzle with the pumpkin seed oil.
This made a great start to the Christmas dinner.