Winter is in full swing, but that doesn't mean that we need to stop grilling! There are plenty of winter seasonal ingredients to highlight on either the charcoal kettle or the gas grill. Warm, earthy flavors like cloves, cinnamon, sage and rosemary, to name a few.
One winter flavor that packs a punch, but is not really used much, is a warm and toasted chestnut. During my family Christmas dinners going back at least 7 years, we have been making a very tasty chestnut soup, roasted on the grill. I have been able to get the secret recipe and re-create it for you here. The ingredients are simple and easy to prepare.
The best thing about this soup is, it can be made in advance, frozen and stored for up to 2 weeks, if necessary. It’s the perfect combination of flavors that will keep Old Man Winter at bay until the arrival of spring.
Keep the coals hot!
Gourmet BBQ System – griddle and wok inserts
Small paring knife
2 lbs Chestnuts, fresh, whole Note: if purchasing ready-peeled chestnuts, reduce the weight needed from 2 lbs to 1 lb + 10 oz
10 sprigs rosemary
14 sprigs sage
4 cups kosher salt (note most of this is to roast the chesnuts and will be discarded)
4 oz butter, unsalted
8 oz smoked bacon, cut into small pieces
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 lb celery, trim the end off and cut into small cubes
1 ½ lbs white onion, Spanish, peeled and cut into small cubes
8 cloves garlic, peeled
½ bottle good port wine
3 qts chicken stock, low sodium preferred
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the grill to 300-350F (low setting on gas models, one layer of coals on charcoal).
2. While the grill is heating up, spread the kosher salt evenly on the griddle. Place 6 sprigs of rosemary and 8 sprigs of sage on top of the salt.
3. Make a 1” slit in the pointy end of the chestnuts with the paring knife, cut into it about ½” deep and spread them out on top of the salt/herb mix in the griddle.
4. Place griddle on the grill and close the lid. Roast for about 30 minutes (check after 20 minutes if the grill get hotter than 350F). Once the chestnuts have toasted, remove from the grill and set aside to cool.
5. Place the wok (or other iron skillet with tall sides) onto the grill to warm up and turn the heat up to medium (about 450-500F). Once the wok has warmed, add the butter and bacon. Close the lid to cook. After 4 minutes, check the bacon and stir it around a few times to cook evenly. Continue cooking until the bacon has browned.
6. Add the carrots, celery and onion and cook for 15 minutes more. Stir every 5 minutes to cook all the vegetables evenly.
7. Once the vegetables have browned, add the garlic and port wine. Remove the stems from the remaining rosemary and sage and add this to the wok. Cook, covered, until the port has reduced by half (about 15 minutes).
8. While the vegetables and port cook, peel the chestnuts and discard the shells and herbs. Save some of the roasted salt (that was under the chestnuts and herbs) for flavoring the soup at the end.
9. Once the port has reduced by half, add the chicken stock and the peeled chestnuts. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
10. Remove from the grill. Using a large ladle to place the soup in the blender, blend the soup in batches, then transfer to a soup pot (Blend the soup very well - the longer it is blended, the smoother it will be).
11. Use some of the chestnut salt you saved to season the soup to desired taste. Garnish with some chives and sour cream, for extra flavor.