Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Split Pea Soup

Around every New Year, I take the leftover Christmas Ham and spend an entire day making my Split Pea Soup.  Unlike most things I make, this recipe takes a lot of time, but oh man, is it worth it.  I've served it to even the most anti-pea people out there, and even they love this dish.  Case in point: I have a dear friend who gets ragey at even the sight of a single pea on her plate, yet will drop all her plans to come over once I announce that it's "Split Pea Night".  It's that good.

Split Pea Soup
Serves 8-10

2 Quarts Chicken Broth
2 Quarts Water
2 Bay Leaves
1 Bone-In Ham (2ish pounds)
16 oz Bag of Split Peas, rinsed and picked over
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Cup Chopped Celery
1 1/2 Cups Chopped Carrots
2 Onions, diced
5 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 tsp Dried Thyme
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1 Medium Potato, peeled and diced
Optional: Balsamic Vinegar


1. Fill a large stockpot with the water and chicken broth.  Add in the bay leaves and entire ham.  Bring to a light boil over medium-high heat, and then let simmer for 2-3 hours, or until ham is falling off the entire bone. You may need to occasionally add in water, so that the majority of the ham is covered.

2. Remove the ham from the pot, and pour the broth through a colander (sitting on another large stockpot) to get out any pieces of bone or gristle (and bay leaves).  Pull all the ham meat off the bone, chop, and add back into strained broth. Keep a close eye out for small bones.

3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add in butter and olive oil, and then the onion, celery, and carrots.  Saute until they began to soften, about 4-5 minutes.  Add in garlic and saute for an additional minute.

4. Add the sauteed vegetables, split peas, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the ham stock. Over medium-high heat, bring the soup to a light boil, and then reduce the heat so that the soup is simmering but not boiling.  Cook for an hour.

5. Add the diced potatoes into the soup, and cook for an additional 30 minutes to an hour, or until the soup reaches your desired consistently.  If you like your soup really thick, you will need to cook it longer so that it has time to cook down.  If you like it thinner, you may need to occasionally add water to the soup so that it doesn't cook down too much, or let it simmer with a cover on the pot.  I personally like mine to be thicker, so I let it cook for at least an hour, uncovered, after I add the potatoes.

6. Ladle the Split Pea Soup into bowls, serve with crusty bread for dipping, and drizzle the soup with balsamic vinegar if you desire.  Leftovers freeze great!

Serving Size:  1/10th of Soup
Calories:  278
Fat:  10
Carbs:  37
Protein:  22


*Make sure that the ham hock you are using has enough ham for the soup.  If it's been picked over too much, buy some additional ham you can chop and add to the soup.  It should be a meat-in-every-bite kind of soup.

*If you like your soup really really thick, on Step 5 after you've let the potatoes cook for about 30 minutes (or more), scoop a couple cups of soup out, and puree it in a blender or food processor, and add back in.  Do not make my mistake! Several years ago I got impatient for the soup to thicken up, so I stuck my immersion blender in my entire soup, and  accidentally blended the whole darn thing, and it turned into a completely smooth, good-tasting, but boring soup.  

*Don't take a shortcut with the ham stock.  The lengthy time devoted to the ham stock  is what makes this dish amazing.  If you don't have time to slave away in the kitchen all day, make the ham stock in a slow cooker.

*I partially cover my Split Pea Soup for the last leg of the cooking time, so that it will cook down, but not so much that I have to add water.  

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