Sunday, July 13, 2008

Corn and Smoked Chicken Soup -A Scrumptious Accident


A lucious and tasty soup


It all started with the corn. It’s one of the few foods Olivia will eat. I have described her “tootsie roll” diet in the past and its only getting worse. I’m not completely sure why she continues to grow. Nevertheless, I bought 8 ears of corn still in the husk for the holiday. It was meant for the grill and we had houseguests. Days later and after everyone had departed, it remained uncooked and destined for the garbage. In fact, throwing it away was my plan when I removed it from the fridge. But somewhere on the path to the garbage can I thought better. So I put the convection oven on 350 and popped in the unshucked ears. They still looked perfect by the way; I just figured they’d never get used.

After proper roasting and shucking, I cut the corn from the cob on 6 of the ears. 2 Ears ended up being consumed conventionally by Lisa and Olivia with a bit of salt and butter. The remaining corn yielded about 3 cups. So into a plastic container and into the fridge. Fast forward another 2 days. I have that corn on my mind as I enter the market. I’ve gone to such trouble for this $1.50 worth of Native American gold that I’m determined to make this one of the stars of tonight’s dinner. Still, I have no recipe in mind as I enter.

Having no earthly clue what I’m going to make, my vision turns to creamy and sweet but the end result winds up being brothy and smoky. More on that in a minute. So I picked up up what I thought I needed and headed home. I’ve been home a full 2 weeks now and the pantry was getting a bit bare. I haven’t been home for 2 weeks in a row in I don’t know how long; maybe a couple of Christmases ago.

Satisfied with my haul, I put it away and set to preparation. I still wasn’t completely sure what I was going to make. So I gathered the ingredients I thought I wanted onto the counter and sort of meditated with them for a while. We were one. I realized now that I wasn’t quite feeling the heavy cream that I bought. But I love heavy cream, I told myself. How was I going to achieve creamy without cream? Then the bulb began getting somewhat brighter. Still unsure of the final prep, I had enough of an idea to begin.


After 1 hour under the hood, perfectly smoked chicken

Thinking that soup wasn’t going to be hearty enough, I fired up the grill to smoke the chicken I bought. Thighs for me and skinless, boneless breasts for Lisa (she won’t eat dark meat). Once the chicken was going, my attention turned to the indoor portion of my little experiment. In my big pot I started by sweating the onions, garlic and tomato then adding a home made chicken/vegetable broth that can be seen here. In with the corn. After proper herbage and seasoning, I rummaged through my spices to make sure I wasn’t missing anything critical. I decided chili powder was an interesting direction. In fact, the 3 secret spices I chose shaped this fantastic soup (OK not so secret… see the recipe below).

Once the soup and chicken were completed, the last of the bulb kicked in. While the thighs were perfect, I decided the chicken breasts were too dry. So I chopped then into bite size pieces and added to the soup. After simmering and reducing another half hour, I had my final result. This soup was lusciously perfect. A combined smoky, spicy broth filled with roasted corn sweetness in every spoonful. For the top I chopped some fresh cilantro and chives and then sliced some fresh avocado. The herb and buttery addition was a final touch of bright flavor. This was an accidental masterpiece that will go into my arsenal of “impress the company” recipes. While not too similar, there were undertones of my time in Louisiana with the smoky sausage and chicken Jambalayas.

Now if we back up and think of all of the steps here, this is a complex recipe. Slow roasted corn and smoked chicken before it’s even “soup yet”. Still I think there are some good shortcuts to be found. For the below chicken dry rub, use whatever you find in your local market. There are several national brands. I used one I picked up at a BBQ place in Memphis but any will be fine. Also, the smoking process which sounds daunting to those who never have done this, is so simple it’s sinful. If smoking is completely out of the question, then I guess you could substitute with a liquid smoke to achieve the desired flavor. For the smoking wood, I keep some hickory soaking during the summer months on the back porch (OK so I just started this practice but go with it). Changing the water every few days means I am prepared to smoke with fresh hickory at any given moment. And then there’s the corn. Bagged frozen corn would be fine. I use that often in recipes. It’s the sweetness we’re shooting for. As for prep time, I went from ground zero to soup in about an hour and a half with plenty of couch time while things were cooking. I must say that I left it on simmer for another hour until Lisa got home from work and I liked how the flavors developed even better as it continued to concentrate. I think this would be a perfect and welcome dinner or entertaining meal any night of week.

Well here ya go:

Corn and Smoked Chicken Soup

Smoked Chicken (on the grill)

3 skinless and boneless chicken breasts
Your favorite dried spice mixture for outdoor grilling
Salt and pepper

Prepare the grill. Gather charcoal to one side and light (if using gas, light only one side of the grill). Place your favorite smoking wood (I used Hickory) that has been soaked in water for at least an hour over the hot part of the grill. If the wood is too small and would fall through the cracks, place them on a piece of aluminum foil.
Liberally coat the chicken with your seasoning mix and salt and pepper. Place on the grill as far away from the heat source as possible. Close the lid and walk away. Do not be tempted to open the lid to check on the bird parts. Let the smoke do its job. After an hour, remove the chicken and set aside.

Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion chopped
4 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
1 large tomato chopped
3 cups corn (frozen is fine)
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or half of each)
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper (add as much as you like to desired spiciness)
¼ cup chopped cilantro plus more for each dish
Chopped chives and avocado slices for garnish

In a large pot over medium high heat add the oil. Add the onions and sweat them until translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and tomato and cook anther 7 minutes. Add corn, broth, chili powder, smoked paprika, cayenne and cilantro. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Allow to reduce over medium heat for about 45 minutes. Slice the chicken breasts into small cubes and add to the soup. Continue to cook another 10 minutes. Now I served at this point but I found that after cooking over a low heat for another hour, the flavors were more intense and even better. You chose. I would not let the soup reduce to more than half of the original amount.

In a serving bowl ladled with soup, sprinkle some chopped cilantro and top with a few slices of avocado and chives.

Serves about 8.
Enjoy. Ciao.
**NOTE- I never mention salt or pepper, do I? OK here's the deal there. I tend to librally salt throughout the cooking process at different times. The perfectly seasoned dish will require no table salt yet the specfic salt flavor should not overwhelm. I seasoned this dish at several points.

1 comment:

John Styles said...

DELICIOUS!