Transform the Spoils of Winter with This Chestnut, Apple, and Celery Soup

Davenport chef Kevin Gibson works pure, unfussied magic using off-season produce.

By Benjamin Tepler January 2, 2014 Published in the January 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Nomad

In a city consumed by culinary seasonality, it’s hard to stand out. But Kevin Gibson, former head of venerated local kitchens Castagna and Evoe, may be king when it comes to cooking with the calendar.

At Davenport, the East Burnside restaurant he opened in November 2013, Gibson dreams up symphonic, European-style flavor combinations—persimmon with lamb, pomegranate with kabocha squash—that will impress the most jaded Northwest foodies.

And in the dead of winter, when even fanatical locavores go numb from dinosaur kale and rutabaga repeats, Gibson’s buttery celery, apple, and chestnut trifecta revitalizes with toasted popcorn notes, velvet-smooth texture, and the warm, dimensional bass note of cognac. 

Chestnut, Apple & Celery Soup 

(Serves 4–6) 

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 tart apple, cored, peeled, and quartered, plus ½ apple, diced, for garnish
  • 1 pinch salt, plus more to taste
  • 14 oz (2½ cups) roasted chestnuts, peeled and roughly chopped*
  • ¼ cup cognac 
  • 4 oz pancetta, sliced into ¼-inch thick lardons 

PREP: Sweat butter, onion, celery, and apple in a wide saucepan over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until onions are soft and translucent. Add a pinch of salt, then chestnuts, and stir well. Add cognac and stir until all liquid has evaporated. Cover with 1 quart cold water and bring to a simmer, cooking for 30 minutes longer, or until chestnuts are tender.    

BLEND: Purée the mixture in a blender and return to the pan. If the soup is too thick, gradually add water; if the soup is too thin, continue reducing to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt.  

FINISH: Fry pancetta over medium heat in a sauté pan until crispy, about 5 minutes. Pour the soup into bowls and top with pancetta and diced apple. 

*Pro Tip! To roast the chestnuts at home, score an X on the flat side to keep them from exploding, place in a 425-degree oven for 30 minutes, and peel while still hot.

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