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Smoked Red Bell Pepper Soup

Hickory chips, soaked in water 30 minutes and drained
8 medium red bell peppers (about 3 pounds)
6 cups (or more) chicken stock
1 1/2 pounds whole chicken breasts with ribs
2 tablespoons butter
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 cups whipping cream (or milk)
salt and freshly ground pepper

Prepare covered barbecue grill with medium-low fire on one side of
grill. Sprinkle hickory chips over coals. Place disposable aluminum
pan under grill rack on side away from fire. Grease grill rack
and arrange peppers on rack over pan. Cover and smoke peppers
until cooked through, turning every 15 minute and adding more chips
as necessary, about 1 1/2 hours. Peel, core and dice peppers.

Bring 6 cups stock to boil in medium saucepan. Reduce heat so
liquid is barely shaking. Add chicken breasts and simmer until
firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Drain, reserving stock. Skin
and bone chicken, then dice. Refrigerate.

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add
celery and onion and cook until tender, stirring occasionally,
about 10 minutes. Add peppers and stir 3 minutes. Add reserved
stock, thyme and bay leaf and simmer, stirring occasionally, until
reduced to 4 cups, about 1 hour.

Add cream to soup and simmer until reduced to 4 1/2 cups, about 40
minutes. Remove thyme and bay leaf. Puree soup in blender. Strain
through sieve into medium saucepan. Season with salt and pepper.
Rewarm over low heat, adding more stock if thinner consistency is
desired. Add diced chicken and heat through. Serve immediately.


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