Chestnut-Quince Vegan Bisque
The creamiest soup made without cream you'll ever make.
This plant-based soup is so rich and luscious that it seems unimaginable that there is not a drop of butter or cream used, but lo and behold all the magic comes from the chestnuts and quince. Jarred chestnuts are the ideal choice since they are tender and blend more easily than fresh, roasted chestnuts. Quince is best enjoyed once the skin becomes yellow at maturity. to be harvested in late autumn before the first frost, making it perfect for the holiday table. A cross between a pear and apple in both shape and flavor (though quite tart), quince is best enjoyed poached, sautéed, or roasted, which makes it perfect for soup. If you cannot procure quince, use a pear and an apple in its place. This soup is a most special and elegant seasonal first course.
Equipment: cutting board; chef's knife; wet measuring cup; measuring spoons; Dutch oven or stockpot; wooden spoon; blender or food processor; rubber spatula
3 tablespoons olive oil 2 medium yellow onions, finely diced
6 sage leaves or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1 large quince, or 1 apple and 1 pear
1, 15-ounce jar chestnuts
1 quart vegetable stock
ground white pepper
1. First, prepare the quince, or apple and pear. Peel the fruit, then quarter and remove the seeds. Cut into chunks and set aside.
ILOC tip: do not worry about any oxidation of the fruit. It's going to be poached in stock and then pureed with chestnuts, producing a brown bisque.
2. Heat a stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil, swirling the pan to coat the bottom. Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add a generous pinch of kosher salt and the optional herbs. Stir constantly for another 5 minutes until the onion is softened and translucent, but not at all brown.
ILOC tip: reserve 8 chestnuts, if desired, to use as garnish in individual portions of the soup.
3. Add the cut quince (or apple and pear) along with the the jarred chestnuts to the sautéed onions. Add the vegetable stock to the pot and mix well to combine. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook uncovered for approximately 20 minutes.
ILOC tip: select vegetable stock with care. Many vegetable stocks compensate for lacking animal fat, flavor, and color by adding an imbalance of sweet and bright vegetables like carrot and tomatoes. Read the ingredients and make sure that onions, not carrots, top the list.
4. If time is of no consequence, allow the soup to cool to warm or room temperature before pureeing in the blender.
ILOC tip: if you need to puree the soup immediately, be sure to begin blending on the lowest setting while holding the lid closed, covered with a clean dish towel to prevent the steam from pushing the lid off the pitcher.
5. Pour the soup in the blender, in two batches, if necessary. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with kosher salt and ground white pepper.
"White pepper has a sharp bite that balances well with the onions, fruit, and chestnuts. Also, it disappears in the soup, adding to the soup's striking texturally smooth look and mouthfeel."
6. Serve immediately...with grilled cheese!
Makes 6-8 servings.