And while we're talking winter soup, here's another one: chestnut soup! Inspired by the smooth-as-velvet, froth-topped bisque from NYC's Cafe Sabarsky, and adapted from a NYT recipe by Mark Bittman, this is very easy and tastes much richer and more luxurious than its simple ingredients would lead you to believe.
12 to 15 fresh whole chestnuts
[or 12-15 peeled whole vacuum-packed or jarred chestnuts]
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
1 branch thyme
4 or 5 sprigs of parsley, minced
1/2 cup dry sherry or madiera
3 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp creme fraiche
4 or 5 crimini mushroom caps, sliced and sauteed in butter until tender and browned
To prepare whole chestnuts, cut an "x" in the skin of each chestnut with a sharp knife. Roast at 325F until the meat is tender and the skin dries out and curls back. Peel chestnuts while still hot, otherwise skin will stick to the nut.
Melt butter in a saucepan. Saute onion, garlic, carrot, and parsnip, stirring, until tender. Add crumbled chestnuts and sherry, and cook, stirring, over low heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Add herbs and chicken broth, a little salt (depending on the saltiness of the broth) and simmer gently for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then puree in a blender. Taste for seasoning, adding more sherry as needed. Return to the pan and warm gently. Top with a spoonful of creme fraiche and a few slices of mushroom.
This went very nicely with a green-and-pink salad from the mystery box: crunchy little gem lettuces, shredded radicchio, and sliced watermelon radishes, in an apple-and-mustard dressing of olive oil, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, and a little rosemary-apple compote.