Corsican goaty chestnut soup
(Minestra di castagnigna)
Not for the faint of heart, but elegant to behold and a practically drooling stimulant of a first course for a strongly flavored meal. With goats' milk, you know it's really really tangy the minute it hits your tongue (and nostrils!), but then you bite down and get subtle layers of flavor...first the crisp licorice taste of fennel, then richly grainy chestnuts, all delicately overlaid with the smokiness of charcuterie. Very different. So different I farmed it out to a trusted colleague at work--and he liked it! Leave in chunks of chestnut, he said, though the recipe called for a smooth puree. And I have. This frankly traditional soup of Corsica would not have had the benefit of food processors anyway. Serve hot in small cups as a first course to 6 people.
Garnish: feathery sprigs of fennel, chopped finely
1. After roasting and peeling the chestnuts, bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large saucepan and stir in the chestnuts, smoked pork neck, fennel, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the smoked pork piece and fennel pieces.
2. Puree in a blender, solids first, but leaving bits of whole chestnut in the soup. Pour back into the saucepan and whisk in the goats' milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. When ready to serve, heat the soup back to a simmer, then ladle into cups and top each with freshly chopped fennel.