Home for the Holidays 2003

See Also

The Chef
Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner of Wallsé, Café Sabarsky 

Serves 8

3/4 cup armagnac or cognac
8 whole pitted prunes
12 ounces button mushrooms, washed
2 dried porcini mushrooms or other flavorful dried mushrooms
1 pound fresh peeled chestnuts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-size celery root, peeled, dark spots removed, and diced
Salt and white pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups skim milk, hot
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Garnish: 1 fresh black truffle (optional) 8 parsley leaves

Cooking Instructions
Early in the day or the night before, put the armagnac, prunes, and ½ cup water in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover the pan, and allow the prunes to steep for 6 hours or overnight. (The prunes can be refrigerated in an airtight jar for a week.)

Put the button mushrooms in a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer for 1 hour.  Remove and discard the mushrooms (there should be at least 1 cup of juice). Pulverize the dried porcini mushrooms in a coffee grinder.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. With a sharp paring knife, cut an X into the flat side of each chestnut. Place the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast in the middle of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until the shell curls. Remove from oven, and allow to cool. Peel and discard the shells, reserving the chestnuts.

Melt the butter over low heat in a large, heavy saucepan. Add the celery root, and cook gently for 5 minutes without browning. Add the peeled chestnuts, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the sugar, increase the heat, and cook for a few minutes, until the mixture caramelizes. Add the remaining armagnac and cook for a minute. Pour in the reserved mushroom juice and the chicken stock, reduce the heat, and cook slowly for 15 minutes. Add the cream, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from heat, and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Transfer soup to a blender in batches, and purée thoroughly for several minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain purée through a fine sieve, and reheat. (Can be made up to this point a day in advance and refrigerated.)

Place 1 room-temperature drained prune in each of 8 soup bowls. Put the milk in a tall, slender container, and add ı teaspoon of the porcini powder and the nutmeg. Using a nozzle on an espresso machine or a separate foaming device, foam the hot milk. Divide the soup among the soup bowls, and top with a scoop of the foam, a shaving of black truffle, if desired, and a parsley leaf. Serve immediately.

Recommended Wines
Austrian Zweigelt, such as Umathum.

Best With
Chestnut soup; Roasted leg of venison with braised red cabbage, spaetzle, and baked Seckel pears; Apple strudel with rum ice cream, topped with schlag.

Photograph by William Meppem