Although peeling chestnuts takes time, if you love chestnuts, it's worth the effort. Once they are peeled, the recipe goes together quickly, resulting in a rich and creamy soup.
1 pound chestnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, minced
1/3 cup finely minced celery
2 cups vegetable stock
1 3/4 cups regular or soy milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Using a sharp knife, cut an X in the flat side of each chestnut. Place them in a large saucepan with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 mintues (the shells and skin will now be easier to remove). Drain the chestnuts and, when they are cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to peel away the outer shells and inner skins. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, cover, and cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add all but 4 of the chestnuts and the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add 1 cup of the milk. Process until smooth. Return the mixture to the saucepan and add the salt, cayenne, and nutmeg. Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup milk and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes; do not boil. Taste to adjust the seasonings.
Meanwhile, coarsely chop the reserved 4 chestnuts. When the soup is hot, ladle it into bowls and garnish with the chopped chestnuts.