Thursday, January 28, 2010

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Hubby has been talking about building his own smoker for some time. He is enamored with the scads of establishments featured on the Food Network that offer smoked meats crafted in their quaint backroom smokers. He watches and drools. The combination of his do-it-yourself character and welding background push him into dreams of a big drum of smoking wood permeating tender hunks of meat in our own backyard.

However, time is always limited and just like my home improvement projects, his smoker dreams have always been put on hold. Therefore, it seemed a no brainer to buy him a smoker for Christmas. I didn't invest in the huge, feed-the-entire-neighborhood version that he has been dreaming of building. It was a more modest model that could easily be tucked away in the corner of the patio or maneuvered into storage when not in use that I brought home. My thoughts were that he could get his feet wet on a smaller scale and build his mammoth smoker later, if the process still held his interest.

The maiden voyage was to smoke a couple pork butts. We tested a purchased rub and a homemade version with both producing excellent results. A friend proclaimed it to be the best pulled pork sandwich he had ever eaten...after he ate 3 of them, just to make sure. This past weekend, Hubby plucked a couple chickens for smoking. (Well, he didn't actually pluck them, but isn't that an awesome visual?) Anyway, again, we created a homemade concoction for the rub which included garlic, kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. Hubs slapped them into the preheated smoker and a few hours later, we enjoyed an amazing meal of perfectly smoked, moist and juicy chicken, a vegetable parmesan dish (layers of grilled zucchini, red peppers, and fennel with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese, and marinara sauce), and garlic bread. OMGoodness! Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.

Of course, the leftovers of that amazing smoked bird couldn't go to waste. I pulled out a quick soup recipe this week in which I usually use roasted or rotisserie chicken. If Chicken and White Bean Soup was good with simple, roasted chicken, it would be 10 times better with smoked chicken, right? You are darn right. Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner. Times ten. On a blowy and snowy night, the bacon, onions, garlic, potatoes, white beans, and chicken simmering together smelled so comforting and cozy and were made even better with spinach added just at the end to wilt into the soup. (Although the next day, while eating the leftovers for lunch at school, one of the students did wrinkle her nose and ask why my food always had "green stuff" in it...can't please them all. *shrug*)

In my opinion, no matter how you slice it or serve it up, it seems that smoked chicken is always a Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner On My Plate...especially when tossed into Chicken and White Bean Soup.

Chicken and White Bean Soup

5 slices bacon, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound red potatoes, cubed

32 ounces chicken broth (may need a bit more, or additional water)

1 rotisserie chicken (or leftover roasted chicken or smoked chicken), boned and cut into cubes

2 (15 ounce) cans small white beans, drained & rinsed (navy beans or great northern beans work well)

5 ounces baby spinach, chopped

kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp.
Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring, until softened.
Add the potatoes and chicken broth; simmer until the potatoes are just tender.

Add the chicken and white beans to the stew; cook until heated through.
May need to add additional broth or water at this point, depending on your preferences.
Just before serving, stir in the spinach and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (Serves 6)

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