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Creamy Chestnut Soup

8 Servings
4 lb chestnuts (8 cups) fresh
1 md onion
12 md shallots
4 stalks celery
5 oz prosciutto,Sliced
3 T butter
2 1/2 qt chicken stock,unsalted
1 t fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
1/2 t salt
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 t white pepper,Fresh Ground
1/4 c cpes (or porcini),Dried

PREPARATION: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400F. With a small, sharp knife, slit the outer shell of each chestnut, put them in a shallow baking pan, and roast until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Peel off the outer shells and inner skins while still warm. Reheat if the chestnuts cool and become difficult to peel. Peel and thinly slice the onion and the shallots. Thinly slice the celery tops and leaves (reserve ribs for another use). Julienne the prosciutto. Wrap and refrigerate 2 tablespoons prosciutto for garnish.
COOKING: Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in an 8-quart soup kettle and saute the onion, shallots and remaining prosciutto over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. In a large saucepan, bring 6 cups of the chicken stock to a boil. Stir the hot chicken stock into the shallot mixture along with the chestnuts, celery, fennel seeds, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and skim. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Remove and set aside 16 chestnuts for garnish. Continue simmering until remaining chestnuts are very tender, about 45 minutes longer.
Remove soup from heat, discard the bay leaf, and set aside to cool 15 minutes. Pour the soup into the workbowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, or into a blender. Pure, then strain through a fine sieve or tamis. (Can cover and refrigerate up to 3 days, or freeze up to 1 month.)

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