Pear and Chicken Bisque

Before I start raving about how wonderful this bisque is, let me quickly explain what a bisque is. One of my culinary dictionaries sums it up as follows, "[bihsk] A thick, rich soup usually consisting of puréed seafood (sometimes fowl or vegetables) and cream." That says it, doesn't it? ;-) The pears in this recipe yield a subtle perfume and sweet-tart flavor to the bisque. The chicken gives it substance. Serve it with a nice glass of Zinfandel and a few slices of baguette bread. Comfort food! :-)

Ingredients (to serve 4):

1 whole chicken breast (about 8 oz.)
4 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
4 russet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and diced
4 to 5 large ripe pears (like Bartlett), cored, peeled, and diced
2 shallots
1/4 teaspoon sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
chopped fresh chives for a tasty garnish

Preparation (a good hour):

1. Place chicken breast and water in a medium-large soup pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken breast from the broth. Discard skin, fat, and bones and, using a fork, shred the meat; cover and set aside. Save broth for step 3.

2. In the same pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat and sauté the potatoes, pears, and shallots, sprinkling the mixture with sugar, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the color begins to turn golden.

3. Add the lemon juice and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Add the chicken broth, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables and fruits are tender.

4. Purée with the cream in a food processor fitted with a metal blade or in a blender. Return the mixture to the pot, reheat, adding the shredded chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Serve in soup bowls, sprinkled with chive.