Smoky Chestnut Soup with Fennel and Crispy Chestnuts
I serve Thanksgiving at 3:00 in the afternoon, which means my house guests are inhaling intoxicating aromas and licking their chops by noontime. To soothe them, and still keep them interested in the coming feast, I offer my loved ones an elegant chestnut soup for lunch. Except for the garnish, this soup can be made a day or two in advance. In fact, it’s better if you do make it ahead. Also, in its favor, the flavors of this appetizer beautifully complement the traditional Thanksgiving menu.
Since there are very few ingredients in this dish, it is so helpful to use a rich homemade chicken broth and lightly smoked bacon (I like applewood smoked bacon). Remember that the salinity of your broth and the bacon will determine how much salt and pepper you need to add at the end. Of course, you can roast and peel your own fresh chestnuts and the chestnut flavor will be even more pronounced, but it is perfectly fine and easy to use already peeled and roasted chestnuts which are available at most grocery stores during November and December.
Please notice this soup has no dairy in it at all so if any of your guests are lactose intolerant, this first course is a winner.