Smoked Chicken Minestrone — The Weekender

By: Marisa McClellan
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About a week ago, the weather in Philadelphia went from unbearably hot to blessedly cool. The air is crisp during the day and just chilly enough in the evening that socks and a second layer are necessary. After an oppressively warm, muggy summer, it is once again a joy to go outside.

I find myself making some of my normal autumn habit changes: I’ve traded my cold-brew coffee for a morning mug of hot, milky tea. Cozy scarves are back in the wardrobe rotation. And I’m making pot after pot of soup.

During the warmer months, dinnertime salads are my weeknight standby. I keep cleaned lettuce, kale or spinach in the fridge, and many nights I will top bowls of greens with chopped cucumber, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and cold chicken. Once the fall weather arrives, however, I am happy to swap out the salad routine for batches of soup that last all week.

In the last seven days, I've made creamy broccoli and cheddar, beef and red beet borscht and Guy Fieri's Smoked Chicken Minestrone. The broccoli puree and the borscht are familiar recipes, but the minestrone was new. The recipe spoke to me because it included instructions on how to smoke chicken in your oven. I've long thought that home smoking was something best done in an outdoor rig, so I had to try this in-house technique.

Guy has you soak some wood chips overnight, wrap them in foil and then set them over a stovetop burner to get them to start smoking. Once smoke begins to appear, you place the wood chips in a foil-lined roasting pan, position a rack over them and put your chicken on the rack. Finally, you swaddle the whole thing in another layer of foil and roast it in the oven for about an hour.

When the time was up, my chicken was perfectly cooked and had a mild, smoky flavor. It’s not an overly aggressive level of smoke, but it is a very nice way to introduce another layer of interest to a basic roast chicken. This is a technique I plan on playing with more in the future; truly, though, it's a perfect culinary project for cooler days and The Weekender.

Before you start smoking your chicken, read these tips:

— Guy tells you to use a disposable roasting pan for your smoking rig. I found that with a generous lining of aluminum foil, one of my basic roasters did the job just fine.

— The recipe has you smoke a fairly small chicken and most of the meat ends up in the soup. Next time I do it, I'm going to do a larger bird, extend the cooking time a little and have enough for smoked chicken salad as well.

— Finally, if you feel like you're not getting enough of a smoky flavor in your soup, add a drop or two of liquid smoke to the broth.

Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.

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