Monday, May 15, 2006

Split-Pea Soup on a Hot Evening

Last week I made a nice ham stock using a ham bone which a neighbor brought over. In the pressure cooker, I covered the bone with water, an onion, quartered, and a couple of garlic cloves. After 30 minutes on high pressure, I let it cool down naturally and then strained the stock and chilled it until I used it yesterday. I skimmed off the layer of fat which had congealed on top and strained it again through a very fine-mesh strainer to remove any remaining impurities.

We had this today, the day after, and it was absolutely fantastic. Even on a very hot evening, this hit the spot with a nice glass of chardonnay.

Split-Pea Soup

1 pound green split peas, picked over, rinsed, and drained
2 large smoked ham hocks, about 1-1/2 pounds total
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalk celery, chopped
2 large carrot, chopped
10 sprigs parsley (optional: made w/o first time)
4 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ t. dry, or to taste)
1 bay leaf
8 cups cold water (okay to use 3 ham stock, 5 water)
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
Freshly ground black pepper

Blanch ham hocks for five minutes; drain and rinse w/ cold water.

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven combine the peas, hocks, onion, celery and carrot. Tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaf together with kitchen string. Add the herb bundle, water, and salt, bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1-1/2 hours or until the peas are tender. Remove the pot from the heat and remove the hocks. Cool. Remove the meat from the hocks, discarding the bones, fat and skin. Cut the meat into cubes. Remove the herb bundle and discard.

Puree the soup with a hand held blender or in batches in a blender. (If you want a more rustic and unblended texture, do not blend.) Reduce if tastes too thin. Heat the soup to a simmer with the meat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in heated bowls with the croutons, if desired.

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