SPLIT PEA SOUP
While my Mom is good at cooking many things, my Dad and I both agree that she is especially great at making delicious, comforting soups. From minestrone and lentil to chicken tortilla and roasted butternut squash, she would be the first to point out that, “it’s kind of hard to screw up soup”. Ever the modest chef, my Mom’s casual approach to cooking is something I look to emulate in the kitchen on a daily basis. With a propensity to sweat the small stuff when it comes to recipe components and cooking techniques, it is while making soup that I feel the most at ease. In fact, I’ve found that soup making can be one of the most relaxing of kitchen tasks. Throw a bunch of quality ingredients in a pot, simmer low and slow until the flavors come together and you have a simple and satisfying supper with leftovers for the week.
A hearty and warming soup, split pea with ham is one of my all-time favorites for the Fall because of its earthy flavor, rustic texture and tender shreds of smoky pork. There are countless way to make this comfort classic, but I am particularly fond of adding bit of cream sherry at the end of cooking for a unique, sophisticated sweetness. This is a very simple soup to prepare and certainly one falls into the category of dishes that are difficult to screw up.
SPLIT PEA SOUP
Adding the dried peas to the pot in two installments guarantees a good amount of texture to the soup. Be sure to simmer the soup for the entire recommended length of time before adding any salt as the smoked ham hock will contribute a good amount of its own. The addition of cream sherry at the end of cooking makes for a grown up flavor that slightly sweetens the soup while adding complexity and another dimension of flavor. This soup really thickens after a bit of refrigeration. When reheating, it’s best to keep some extra stock (or water) on hand to thin down the soup to your desired consistency.
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion (about one medium onion)
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic (about 1-2 cloves)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups diced carrots
- 1 cup diced, unpeeled red skin potatoes
- 1 pound dried split peas
- 8 cups chicken stock or water
- 1 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 pound bone-in, smoked ham hock
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon cream sherry (optional)
- In a 6-quart pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions, garlic, dried herbs and pepper until translucent and soft, about 10 minutes.
- Add the smoked ham hock and sauté briefly until it begins to color slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Add the carrots, potatoes and 3/4 of the dried split peas. Add in the stock or water, bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Skim off foam periodically as it collects on the surface.
- After 40 minutes, add in the remaining split peas and continue to simmer for another 40-50 minutes, stirring every once in a while to make sure that the peas don’t scorch on the bottom of the pot.
- Carefully remove the ham hock from the hot soup to a clean plate. Allow the ham to cool slightly before pulling the meat from the bone and shredding it into bite size pieces.
- Return the shredded ham to the pot and swirl in the optional cream sherry. Add kosher salt to taste.
- Serve warm in bowls garnished with a Parmesan crouton.
- 1 sourdough baguette
- Olive oil for brushing
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Finely chopped fresh thyme or oregano
- Preheat the oven to 400º.
- Slice baguette on a bias into 1/4 thick pieces. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and brush each with olive oil before sprinkling on kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Top each slice with a sprinkling of grated cheese and minced herbs and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.
- Serve croutons at room temperature.