Smoked Chicken-Tortilla Soup
A wonderful cold-weather dish, this soup can be simplified by purchasing prepared smoked chicken pieces, available in plastic packages in most stores. If you choose to smoke your own, you can do it a day or so ahead. The chef suggests serving this soup with corn sticks.
- Ear Corn - 1
- Chicken Stock - 2 quarts, or canned chicken broth
- Smoked Chicken Breast - 4 ounces, (see below)
- Green Bell Pepper - 1, seeded, deribbed, and diced
- Onion - 1, medium, diced
- Celery Stalk - 2, diced
- Carrots - 2, diced
- Tomato paste - 4 ounces
- Corn Tortilla Chips - 2 cups, crushed
- Chicken Breast - 4 ounces (see below)
- Fresh Corn Tortillas - 12, julienned
- Corn Oil - 2 quarts
- Zucchini - 1, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
- Onion - 1 medium, halved and sliced thin
- Avocado - 1/2, peeled and sliced into 6 pieces
- Cilantro - 1 bunch, (optional)
- Smoked Chicken
- Chickens - 2, cut into large pieces or butterflied
- Lemons - 2, sliced
- Salt - 2 tablespoons
- Water - to cover
- Mesquite or similar hard wood - 2 - 3 pieces
To prepare the stock: Shuck the corn and cut off the kernels, discarding the cob. In a large pot, bring all ingredients to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve, pressing down on the bits to extract all juices. The stock may be refrigerated at this point and reheated later.
To fry the tortillas: In a deep frying pan or pot, heat the oil to 350 F. Toss in one fourth of the tortilla strips and fry until they float to the surface and brown slightly. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining tortillas, one fourth at a time, letting the temperature of the oil return to 350 F between each addition. Lightly salt the fried tortilla strips.
To serve: Reheat the soup broth with the zucchini, onion, and chicken. Spoon into serving bowls and top each bowl of soup with cheese and tortilla strips. Top each with a slice of avocado and sprig of cilantro.
The key to smoking is long, slow cooking in a moist atmosphere. These directions allow for a shorter time in the smoker or grill, finishing in the oven so that you are certain to get the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken to 180 F. You can complete the entire process in the smoker instead; in that case, increase the cooking time in the smoker to about 4 hours, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 180 F.You can add your own variations to the flavor by changing what you put in the water pan; lemon, spices like ginger, garlic, and aromatics like rosemary, oregano, and tarragon will add flavor to the chicken as it smokes.
To smoke the chicken: Fill a pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer with water and add the salt, chicken pieces, and lemon slices. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 2 - 3 hours in the refrigerator.
Prepare a smoker or grill with a close-fitting vented cover: Light the charcoal and let burn until covered with fine white ash. With long barbecue tongs, push the coals on one side of the grill. Put a heatproof pan of water (optional: use the left-over marinade from the chicken) next to the fire. Spray the cooking grill with cooking oil spray and set in place over the fire. Drain and blot dry the chicken. Spread the chicken on the grill. Cover and let smoke, adding coals occasionally to keep the fire going and adding water as necessary to the water pan. About 1 hour and 15 minutes after starting the chicken, soak 3 - 4 pieces of wood in water for 30 minutes. About 1 hour and 45 minutes after starting the chicken, place the soaked wood over the coals. Keep the cover on and cook for 45 minutes - 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Remove the chicken from the smoker and place in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet. Put in the oven and cook for 45 minutes - 1 hour, until the internal temperature of the thickest portion reaches 180 F. Remove the chicken, let cool for 30 minutes, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.