Sunday, March 01, 2009

Thick as pea soup

Today was a lazy Sunday. This was a day off from running, so I just did some errands in the morning, and then pretty much watched golf (Geoff Ogilvy is a rock star!) and NASCAR.

It was definitely a soup kind of day, as the temperature barely topped 15 degrees. So I whipped up a batch of my split pea and ham soup. Since I haven't got much else to do today, how about I share a recipe? Consider it my effort to help warm people up in the chilly Midwest! :)

The key to flavorful soup rests primarily with the ham. If you use a nicely smoked ham shank, ham hock, or a leftover ham bone, you are well on your way. I typically use a ham shank, as I can get some tasty ones at my store, but use whatever you can get your hands on.

My twist with the recipe is that I use beer as part of the cooking liquid. My sister-in-law does this with bean soup, and since split pea is kind of in the same ballpark, I started adding beer into my recipe. It works nicely, as the beer adds something of a tangy, zippy flavor to the soup. (Of course, you could omit the beer all together. Just use 8 cups of water instead of 6 1/2, and you will still get great soup).

Here is how I do it:

Jean's Split Pea Soup with Ham

-Olive oil
-1 medium onion, diced
-2 large stalks celery, diced
-5 medium-sized carrots, sliced into rounds
-6 cloves garlic, minced
-Salt and fresh cracked black pepper
-1 lb. dried split peas
-6 1/2 cups water
-1 12 oz. bottle darker beer (such as brown ale)
-1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, fresh thyme and parsley, celery leaves)
-1 smoked ham shank (about a pound or so)
-2 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, diced (optional)
-Additional ham, diced (optional)
-Fresh parsley for garnish

Add some olive oil to a large soup pot. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrots for several minutes until slightly softened and the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Add the dried split peas, water, beer, bouquet garni, and the smoked ham shank. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook (covered). Stir every so often and also skim the fat that rises to the surface. Cook for 90 minutes to 2 hours, or until the split peas have broken down and the soup develops a smoother texture.

Take out the ham shank and allow to cool. Remove the meat meat, dice, and return it to the soup.

If you like potatoes in your split pea soup, add them about 1 hour into the cooking process. This way they will still cook through, but should still retain some texture.

Also, ham shanks generally do not have a lot of meat on them, so I like to add some extra ham. If you like, dice up part of a ham steak and add it to the soup at the same time you add the meat from the ham shank.

Adjust for seasoning if necessary. Garnish with some fresh parsley and enjoy with some soup crackers and a few drops of your favorite chipotle pepper hot sauce, if you are so inclined.

Until next time,

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