Saturday, March 26, 2011

Split Pea Soup

Split pea soup may not look like anything tasty... in fact it looks a whole lot like something no one would ever want to eat. Something I don't really want to talk about on my blog. Let's just say it comes out of infants... and it's not entirely pleasant.

But what it lacks in appearance, it makes up for in thrifty yummy filling food.

Hearty, healthy, and it uses up ham. In case you are like anyone I know and has pounds of ham lying in the freezer. Not that I would know anyone who has several pounds of ham stockpiled so that it looks like they're preparing for the apocalypse... even though they aren't, they just got a ham for Christmas and they're still trying to use it up... (Ahem, I might be married to this person. Please send your ham recipes... I'm running out of ideas.)

Split Pea Soup
Source: Cooks Illustrated, Feb. 2011

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
7 cups water
1 lb ham steak, thickly sliced (thawed, if frozen)
4 slices bacon
1 lb split green peas, rinsed and picked through
1 1/2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced

Heat butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, 1/2 tsp salt and cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, just long enough to release the aroma. Add water, ham, bacon, split peas, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Over the next few minutes, the split peas will start to break down from whole, intact split peas in the beginning, to completely broken down delicious mush in the end. For the first part of this cooking process, you want the peas to be about 2/3 broken down; essentially the cooking liquid should be a little thick but there should still be remnants of whole peas in the soup. We'll cook them a little more to get the completely done.

Remove the ham and add carrots and celery. Set ham aside on a plate and cover with foil for about 20-30 minutes. When the ham is cool enough to handle, shred apart with two forks.

Remove bay leaves and bacon from the soup and return ham to the pot. Simmer for a few minutes to heat thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with warm crusty bread.


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