Summary: A wonderfully flavorful, robust, rich (but not heavy) winter soup!
Yield: serves 6-8
- 8 fresh chestnuts, each scored with a paring knife around its perimeter, optional
- 10 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- 4 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling over the garlic
- 4¼ cups trimmed/washed/halved lengthwise/chopped crosswise leeks
- 4¼ cups peeled and chopped onions
- ¼ cups chopped shallot
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
- freshly ground white pepper, to taste
- 3 cups washed and chopped sunchokes
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 Pecorino rinds
- ½ cups buttermilk
- 6 tablespoons heavy cream
- sliced scallions for garnish, optional
Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit. On a rimmed baking sheet, place your scored chestnuts and roast for 30 minutes.
In a small ramekin (4 ounces or so), put the unpeeled garlic cloves, drizzle with a bit of oil, cover tightly with foil and roast in the same 400° oven for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, in a dutch oven or 12-quart soup pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter is mostly melted and things are heating up, add the chopped leeks, onions, shallots and thyme sprigs. Sprinkle with the salt, nutmeg and white pepper; I found 1/4 teaspoon of both the nutmeg and white pepper to be perfect. Stir to combine everything well, and lower the heat to medium.
When the veggies are nicely wilted and starting to turn translucent (at least 10 mins), add the sunchokes and chicken broth. Turn the heat up to medium high, and submerge the two Pecorino rinds. After a few minutes, add the buttermilk and cream and stir again to combine everything well. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then reduce heat to medium until you can maintain a nice, gently bubbling simmer and cook 25-30 minutes, until the sunchokes are easily pierced with a knife. Add the roasted garlic 5 minutes before the end of the cook time.
When the sunchokes can be pierced, turn off the heat and carefully remove what's left of the thyme sprigs and cheese rinds. Then, carefully puree the soup with an immersion blender (if you don't have one, let the soup cool some before using a blender). Serve with peeled and chopped roasted chestnuts and slivered scallions if you like.