There is a stillness of life in the middle of the night that can be heard for miles and the ensuing silence is frightening. As we lay awake and watch the stars shine bright and dance across the coal-coloured sky, the slightest noise catches our attention. The thirty foot oak trees out back sway as the wind picks up and gains speed, the remaining leaves on the ground chased down the street. It sounds like a storm is rolling in. Even though the forecast looks clear, I lay there secretly hoping for snow in the morning.
The arrival of snow is inevitable but I’m anxious. There is something magical about witnessing the first snowfall of the season. It sends me hurrying back in my mind to a time when I went barreling out the door at the first sign of snow. It has always meant something special and invokes memories spanning my lifetime. It also signals the first breath of Christmas and the holidays.
I’m ready for everything it brings. It signifies a shift in attitudes with everyone you meet. It brings renewed hope and contact with your neighbours when they shovel or the kids take advantage of snow days and snow fights. It also means a few things inside our home. The fireplace roars and cracks through the evening, warming up every inch of the household, carols playing on the television and extra time spent in the kitchen. The snow means baking, but it also means the soup’s on. Big pots to warm our bones during the cold days and longer nights.
For as long back as I can remember the cold air and snowfall brought our family around the table, hovered over a big pot of soup. And to this day I still turn to a pot of soup to bring us together and warm us up. My wife has her favourites but from time to time I like to switch things up and try something new. I get away and spend some time in the kitchen building flavour and allowing the soup to simmer away until the entire house smells amazing. Sometimes hours on the stove until the taste is just right.
The other day, which was seasonably cold, I put together this soup. And I’m so glad I did. It was subtle and simple and yet every bit as delicious as the soups we normally enjoy. It’s perfect for the cold weather to come and to bring your own family around the table together.
From my kitchen to yours,
Parsley Root & Chestnut Soup with Bacon Relish and Crisp Croutons
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large parsley root, peeled and diced
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 1/2 fennel, chopped
- 1 leek, diced
- 1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 12 chestnuts
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 tbsp. thyme, chopped
- 1 cup water
- 8 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- coarse salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 1/2 small baguette, cut into big chunks
- bacon relish, recipe below
- Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. Cut an X on the flat side of each chestnut, making sure to cut all the way through the skin. Place the chestnuts on a baking pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and peel when they are cool enough to handle. Reserve 3 of them as part of the garnish.
- Coat a large pot with the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the parsley root, celery, fennel, leek, onion and garlic. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until softened. Add the thyme, bay leaf, chestnuts, vegetable stock and water. Season. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the bay leaf and remove from heat.
- Puree the soup with a blender. Strain through a fine sieve into a large pot. Add heavy cream and season to taste and stir to combine. Bring back to a simmer.
- While the soup is simmering, go ahead and make your croutons. Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the baguette chunks and cook for 2-3 minutes or until toasted.
- Serve the soup with toasted croutons, bacon relish and chopped chestnuts.
- Serves 6.
- 1/2 pound bacon, diced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 4 sage leaves, minced
- 1/4 cup golden syrup
- Cook bacon over medium heat until it’s just starts to get crisp. Remove and strain fat, reserving a tablespoon of bacon fat and the bacon. Place the fat into saute pan over low heat and add in the onion, garlic, thyme sage and brown sugar. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the onion is softened. Add the bacon back in. Add in a splash of water and scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir in the syrup and cook for 12 minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates. Place in a bowl and let cool.