Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Split Pea Soup

Yes I know soooo  many of you have an early Spring, with lots of sunshine and budding plants, and all the promise of things to come.  We however are not so I stick my tongue out at you in your general direction!

This soup is great if it's cold and dreary like it is here, or if it's Spring like it seems to be everywhere else.  Warm and sunny with early peas availabe, use the fresh peas (cooked) as a garnish.  Cold and gray like it is here?  Keep warm, and earthy like we did and curl up in your house leaving the cold outside and dream of warmer, brighter days.

Split Pea Soup
Adapted from Thomas Keller


3 tablespoons canola oil (I used vegetable oil)
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
2 cups coarsely chopped leeks
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
Kosher salt
1 smoked ham hock (I used ham shank)
3 quarts homemade chicken stock
1 pound split peas, small stones removed, rinsed
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup Crème Fraîche
Mint leaves (optional)


Heat canola oil in an 8-to 10-quart stockpot over medium heat. Add carrots, leeks, onions, and a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a parchment lid (I used a bacon splatter screen), and cook very slowly, stirring occasionally, for 35 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove and discard the parchment lid.

Add the ham hock and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 45 minutes. Prepare an ice bath (I used a sink of cold water). Strain the stock into a bowl, discard the vegetables, and reserve the ham hock. Place the bowl of stock over the ice bath to cool. (The split peas will cook more evenly when started in a cold liquid, mine was room temp ands fine.)

Return the cold stock and ham hock to the pot, add the split peas, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the split peas are completely soft (do not worry if they start to fall apart you will puree them later).

Remove the soup from the heat, and remove and reserve the ham hock. Season the soup with 1 tablespoon vinegar and salt to taste. Transfer some of the split peas and liquid to a blender. Blend on very low speed until pureed. Transfer to a bowl, repeat with batched until half the peas and liquid have been pureed. Add in the un-pureed portion and stir until thoroughly mixed. Taste for seasoning, adding additional vinegar, salt and or pepper to taste if necessary.

Pull away and discard skin and fat from ham. Trim the meat, and dice into ½-inch cubes (I cut mine into teeny tiny pieces). It will not be a lot of meat, which is perfect. I think I only had 1/8 of a cup or less.

To serve, reheat the soup adding a little water or stock as needed to thing. Place a dollop of crème Fraîche in the bottom of a bowl, top with hot soup. Garnish with mint leaves if desired.

Leftovers served with some spinach, red pepper swiss cheese bread, the remains of the batch of pickled eggs, and some AMAZING cheese.  It may not look pretty (my camera is about a big of fan of gray skies as I am) but it was the best lunch I've had all week!

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