2 cups roasted, shelled, and skinned chestnuts
1 chopped shallot
2 chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
3/4 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 coarsely chopped fennel bulb (discard stalks and core)
1 cup chicken broth
2.5 cups water
1/4 cup half-and-half
- Preheat oven to 350
- Make a large X with a chestnut knife or sharp pairing knife on the flat side of each chestnut through the shell but not the meat. Soak chestnuts in a bowl of warm water to cover by 2 inches for 15 minutes, then drain well. Roast in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan in middle of oven untill shell curls away at X mark, about 15 minutes. Wearing protective gloves, peel away shells from chestnuts while still hot. Blanch chestnuts in boiling water 2 minutes and drain. Rub in a kitchen towel to remove skins.
- Coarsely chop chestnuts, reserving 1/3 cup for garnish.
- Cook shallots and leeks in 2 tablespoons butter in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring until softened. Add wine and simmer until almost all liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in fennel, broth, chestnuts (excluding garnish), and water, then simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in half-and-half and cool mixture slightly.
- Puree mixture in batches in a blender until smooth, transferring to a bowl (use caution when bleding hot liquids). return soup to pot and bring to a simmer, thinning with water if desired. Season with salt and pepper.
- While soup is reheating, heat remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then saute reserved chestnuts with salt and pepper to taste, stirring constantly, until crisp and butter is browned, about 4 minutes.
- Serve soup topped with chestnuts and drizzled with browned butter.
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