This week, the New England Patriots pay a visit to Buffalo and their Bills. Northwest New York State will never be confused with Provence in terms of developing a compelling indigenous food tradition, excepting buffalo wings, which while delicious (and worth making at home, by the way) do not translate feasibly into soup. However, few match-ups offer a better opportunity to get into the right frame of mind. Bill Belichick, while something of a polarizing figure, is famous for his relentless preparation. A soup that requires the same of its maker will give you a sense of what it takes to be a champion. A soup does not have defensive tendencies you can track, or even opposing coaches that you can videotape surreptitiously, until your former assistant and protégé snitches you out, but it can have chestnuts. Chestnuts are delicious, but peeling them is tedious, and can fray the fingers a bit. They give this soup a wonderful velvety sweetness, and give you the opportunity to experience the 99% of genius that is hard work.
Chestnut, Pumpkin, and Farro Soup
- 4 ounces farro soaked in cold water for 90 minutes or so (If you cannot find farro, you could use cooked wild rice instead.)
- 2 pounds whole chestnuts
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red onion peeled and chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced (You do want dice here, so avoid the case-ready packages of sliced pancetta. Better yet, start curing your own.)
- 5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2-4 dried red chiles
- 1 quart chicken stock. (This is no place for your clarified, blonde stocks. Think more Anne Bancroft, less Paris Hilton.)
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Soak the farro. Peel your pumpkin or squash, toss with salt and olive oil, and roast on a 400f oven for an hour or until the flesh softens and begins to color.
While the farro soaks, cut Xs in the chestnuts, and put in boiling water for five minutes or so. Drain and peel. There are some pretty compelling college football games today that you could watch while you do.
When the farro is done soaking, drain it, cover with water, bring to boil, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the farro has an appropriate, slightly resisting texture.
Warm 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a big pan. Sweat the pancetta slightly, add the onions, chilies, garlic, and celery, and cook gently until the garlic just begins to show some color. Add the chestnuts, let them cook for five minutes, then add the pumpkin.
Add stock, bring to simmer, and add the cooked farro. Check seasoning, and serve with a drizzle of good olive oil.