Instead of making a traditional Osechi this year, I decided to take the same foods that are frequently eaten at the New Year in Japan and make alternative dishes instead, like Lotus Root Chips and this Chestnut and Sweet Potato Soup.
Chestnuts, despite the name, are less like a nut and more like a starch. The texture is similar to that of a cooked potato, but a bit less grainy. The flavor is gentle and when roasted has a slightly smoky-sweet flavor. While seasonal fresh chestnuts are my favorite, the vacuum-packed variety are just fine for the purposes of making this soup. (I have tried roasting and peeling my own chestnuts but have yet to master the process. I will try again next year when chestnuts are back in season to get more practice!)
For this soup, Ive combined chestnuts with Japanese sweet potatoes (satsumaimo) to create a creamy, comforting soup that is perfect for post-holiday light meals. With just a small amount of cream to tie the soup together, this soup is hearty without being overly rich. And the best part? It only takes 30 minutes to make! I know. Thats pretty sweet.
Japanese Chestnut and Sweet Potato Soup
Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 lb. Japanese sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (or other variety of sweet potato)
1 cup vacuum packed chestnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 large yellow onion (or 1 medium/small) chopped
6 cups chicken stock/broth
2 tablespoons Japanese Whiskey (you can use other types of whiskey, but Ive only used Japanese. Sherry is also an option)
1 tablespoon honey
salt and white pepper to taste
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped flat leave parsley, for garnish
In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook until soft. Add the potatoes and increase heat to medium high. Cook the potatoes for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure nothing burns. Add the chestnuts and stir into the potato/onion mixture. Pour the chicken stock into the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes until the potatoes and chestnuts are fork tender. Use an immersion blender to combine the ingredients (or work carefully in batches with a regular blender) until creamy. Stir in the whiskey and honey and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the cream, salt and pepper. Ladle into 4 serving bowls and garnish with the parsley. Serve immediately.