In Kansas City, we never know what kind of a winter we’ll have. Mild. Polar. Dry. Snowy. No matter. As darkness falls earlier and earlier, we want foods that are more warm muffler than silk scarf. We want the flavor of the ancient hearth.
And we want it in a bowl that warms our hands as we hold it. Bring on the Smokey Jo’s Gumbo from B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ, sassy with spice and chunky with smoked chicken and sausage. Or Q39’s white bean cassoulet, which benefits from its time on the smoker, too. The butternut squash and chipotle soup at Happy Gillis Café & Hangout is likewise warming and soul-satisfying.
Smoky soups are also easy to make at home, now that we have more available ingredients from the smoke pantry. If you were wise enough to put a pan of Roma tomatoes, a head of garlic, or garden veggies on your smoker when you were doing those ribs to a turn, you can just get some out of your freezer. A smoked tomato soup dotted with fresh goat cheese and a sprinkle of herbs whispers “summer is coming.” Cooked and pureed winter squash, simmered in broth and enlivened with a mashed whole canned chipotle pepper (which had already been smoked before it was canned), gives you a homemade version of the Happy Gillis soup. To a simmering soup, you can always add smoked chicken, brisket, sausage, and other ingredients as close as your neighborhood barbecue restaurant.
Even a judicious sprinkle of smoky seasoning can give a soup that ancient flavor. Wood + Salt in Missouri offers many smoked products including Tellicherry Rye Peppercorns, soaked in rye whiskey and then smoked over pecan wood; their Winter Smoked Sea Salt smoked over smoldering cinnamon sticks, brown sugar, tea leaves and orange zest is aromatic as well.
When smoke gets in your soup, it’s a good thing.