Author Notes: Autumn in Portland brings cool temperatures, overcast skies, and off-and-on rain showers. In other words it is perfect soup weather. This soup combines a couple of my favorite things. It is creamy and earthy with texture from the hazelnuts. It has a slightly exotic flavor from the lemongrass. A glut of Asian pears from a friend's tree adds a little sweetness and more texture. I used a recipe for chicken with walnut sauce as my jumping off point, so went with chicken stock. If you prefer to make it vegetarian, use a mushroom stock or a non-sweet vegetable stock. —hardlikearmour
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
1 quart chicken stock (or sub 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth and 1 cup water)
1 full stalk lemongrass
6 stems parsley, plus additional for garnish
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 medium onion
1 medium clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1.75 oz crustless baguette or similar bread, torn into coarse crumbs (about 1.5 cups)
1 1/3 cups diced Asian pear, Anjou pear, or Bartlett pear
- Preheat oven to 350º F. Spread hazelnuts in a single layer on a sheet pan. Once oven has heated, toast hazelnuts for 10-11 minutes, until skins have split and nuts are golden brown. Wrap toasted nuts in a clean dishtowel, and rub until most of the skins have been removed. (It's pretty much impossible to get them all, so don't get discouraged. I generally am good with removing about 2/3 of the skins.) Transfer nuts to food processor.
- Remove outer leaves from lemongrass, and cut the root end off. Starting at the cut end, cut 2 6-inch lengths of lemongrass. Cut the pieces in half lengthwise, then use the flat end of your chef's knife to crush the stems. Combine the lemongrass, 6 stems parsley, and chicken stock in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium until it reaches a simmer, then turn to low.
- Dice onion and set aside. Mince garlic and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Once it stops foaming add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion has softened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cayenne, and cook, stirring continuously until fragrant about 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer to food processor.
- Combine torn bread crumbs and a ladle's worth of stock in a bowl. Allow the bread to soak up the stock, then transfer to the food processor.
- Pulse the hazelnut mixture in the food processor until the nuts are mostly broken up. Scrape the sides, then process until well-blended about 2 minutes, adding more stock if needed.
- Remove the lemongrass and parsley from the remaining stock. Whisk in the hazelnut mixture. Keep over low heat, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt if needed before serving.
- Heat remaining butter in sauté pan over medium heat. Once it stops foaming add the diced Asian pear. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on at least one side. While the pear is cooking, chop some parsley leaves for garnish.
- Divide the soup and Asian pear between 4 bowls. Garnish with parsley then serve.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Recipe for Autumn Soup