Friday, February 22, 2008

Cream of Cashew Soup with Armagnac

The photo is a bit distorted - the glass isn't really that bowl shaped at the top. I served the soup in these small 4-ounce glasses, with a small spoon. Even though it was served hot, you could hold onto the bottom or top of the glass without burning your fingers.

My theory must have been, back when I clipped this recipe from Bon Appetit, that it was unusual, therefore, I'd like to try it. Unusual it is. Good? A resounding YES. Perhaps it's not the right first course for just any dinner, but it made a big hit at our recent dinner party. I made it two days ahead, then reheated it, added the cornstarch thickener (so little of it, I hardly think it mattered) and the Armagnac. The recipe comes from a now-defunct restaurant in Oxford, Maryland, called Mathilda's.

In case you don't know about Armagnac, here's the lowdown from Wikipedia:

  • Armagnac [pronounced ar-mahn-yak] is a distinctive kind of brandy or eau de vie, made of mainly the same grapes as cognac and undergoing the same aging in oak barrels, but mainly with column still distillation (cognac and part of armagnac is distilled in pot stills).
It comes from the mountainous regions in France near the Pyrenees. I always thought Armagnac had some affinity with apples, but no, it's all grapes. It's just the method of distillation and barreling that differentiates it. Much of the soil is rocky. Anyway, Armagnac is not an everyday staple in liquor stores, so you may have to seek it out. But you could also use Cognac or brandy instead. Just don't use some $4.99 bottle of rot-gut. The flavor does come through in this soup.

Cook's Notes: I didn't find unsalted cashews, so I used the lightly salted ones from Planter's. But, I did use low-sodium chicken broth. That way you can add salt if you would like to. If doing the cornstarch thing doesn't interest you, just eliminate it. I could not discern a bit of difference in the consistency of the soup after adding it. The chives add a nice touch - since the soup is definitely BEIGE, it needs a tad of color.

Cream of Cashew Soup with Armagnac
Recipe By: Mathilda's, Oxford, Maryland (restaurant is now closed), via Bon Appetit
Serving Size : 6
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 cups cashews -- roasted, unsalted
1/3 cup shallots -- chopped
28 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup cream sherry
2 cups half and half -- or fat-free half and half
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cognac -- or Armagnac (preferred)
2 tablespoons fresh chives -- minced
1. Melt butter with oil in heavy, large pot over medium heat. Add cashews and shallots. Cook until shallots are golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add broth and Sherry; increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the half and half and cream. Reduce heat to medium/low and simmer uncovered, until cashews are tender, about 20 minutes. Allow soup to cool about 20 minutes before continuing.
2. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until VERY smooth. Strain soup into a large saucepan, discarding solids left in strainer.
3. Whisk the water with cornstarch in a small bowl to blend. Bring soup to a boil, whisk cornstarch mixture into soup, stirring until soup thickens, about 2 minutes. Stir in Armagnac. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among soup bowls or short glasses, sprinkle with chopped chives and serve.
Per Serving: 546 Calories; 49g Fat (75.7% calories from fat); 16g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 78mg Cholesterol; 148mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Non-Fat Milk; 9 Fat.
Printer-friendly recipe, click title at top.


Toffeeapple said...

This sound good. I've been to Normandy where Armagnac is made. I can understand why you thought the drink was made from apples since the area is famed for it's apple based drinks. It is also an area rich in dairy produce. I didn't want to go home, the food is just so good.

Toffeeapple said...

Silly me - I was thinking of Calvados! Slinking away, blushing...