Every year at Thanksgiving my family gathers around the table for a long, laughter filled evening. There’s always lots of cooking to be done
but one course that has become a tradition is the chestnut soup from Café Sabarsky. This classic Viennese café, outfitted with early 20th
century furnishings by Jospeh Hoffman, Adolf Loos and Otto Wagner, is tucked inside New York’s Neue Galerie and is one of my favorite spots in the city.
For the soup, Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner looked to his Austrian roots and paired earthy forest fare like mushrooms and chestnuts with sweet Armagnac-soaked prunes.
The resulting flavor perfectly compliments Thanksgiving menus, not to mention knocking one thing off the prep list!
Make the prunes: In a small saucepan, combine 8 pitted prunes with ½ cup Armagnac (or cognac) and ½ cup water.
Bring to a simmer, then remove the heat, cover, and let soak for at least 6 hours. Drain.
Make the mushroom broth: In a small saucepan, cover ¾ pound mixed mushrooms (such as hen-of-the-woods, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms)
with 2½ cups water, and bring to a simmer, then cook over low heat for 1 hour. Strain the liquid and reserve the mushrooms for another use.
You should have at least 1 cup of mushroom broth. If you have less than 1 cup, add chicken stock.
In a spice or coffee grinder, whir 2 dried porcini (or other) mushrooms to a powder.
Make the soup: Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a small sharp knife, score the flat side of each chestnut (1 pound in the shell) with an X.
Spread the chestnuts on a baking sheet and roast in the center of the oven until the skin curls, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool slightly, and peel.
In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter. Add 1 medium celery root (about 12 ounces, thickly peeled and cut into ½-inch dice)
and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, without browning. Add the chestnuts and season with salt and pepper, than add 1 tablespoon sugar
and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture caramelizes. Add the mushroom broth and 5 cups chicken stock and bring to a boil,
then reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool slightly.
Puree the soup using an immersion blender, or in batches using a regular blender. Work the soup through a fine sieve.
Return the soup to the pan and reheat. Taste for seasoning.
Add a prune to each warmed soup plate. Using an espresso machine or a frother, foam 1 cup heavy cream and 2 cups skim milk with ¼ teaspoon
of the porcini powder and 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg. Ladle the soup into the plates, top each with a spoonful of the foam,
some shavings from 1 black truffle (optional), and a parsley leaf and serve.
Makes 8 servings.