Saturday, December 13, 2008

Classic Split Pea Soup

One time my family went sailing in the British Virgin Islands, and it was an all-around amazing experience. We snorkeled and swam in some of the clearest water I've ever seen, played on breathtaking beaches, scubaed to shipwrecks, and billowed in the wind of the sailboat. One night, we picked a tiny little restaurant in a secluded little cove with tables right on the beach. The waves came right up over your toes during dessert. The cook's son swam out to a trap in the middle of the bay to get the lobster my dad ordered for dinner. I am also quite convinced that the only people working there were the waitress, the waitress' mother in the kitchen, and the waitress' brother who swam to get the lobsters. Dinner took about 3 hours, and no one minded one bit.

So, to get to the point, the first coarse was a bowl of split pea soup. As it was being served, I say to myself, "We travel down to an exotic paradise and all I got was a bowl of pureed, green baby food?" However, one spoonful of that soup, and I was made a believer. I adore split pea soup. In retrospect, it was probably about 40% cream, but hey, there's precious little a pint of heavy cream can't fix.

This recipe was necessitated by being forced to take the leftovers from the church Christmas dinner. There are only a few things I know of that one can do with a ham bone, and this is the main one. I'm sorry that there's no crazy experimentation, secret ingredients, twists or turns for this one. Actually, I'm mostly sorry that there's no real recipe. A friend sent over just a list of ingredients without any measurements or ratios, and in my book, that's awesome. I wasn't bound by anything. So, this one is completely up to you. Good luck, and have fun.

Warning: I had a great big ole' ham bone, so I made a whole lot of soup. You can probably half everything and be just fine.

Split Pea Soup

Ingredients (all measurements are approximate)
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 large russet potato, skin still on
  • 1-2 stalks celery
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 1 large ham bone, with some meat still on
  • 2 pounds split peas (rinsed thoroughly, and bad ones or stray pebbles picked out)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped garlic
  • ample salt and pepper, to taste
  • chicken broth (I used about 2 quarts, plus some extra water)
  • about 1/2 cup heavy cream
I started in a crockpot, but then ended up moving to a stock pot on the stove later because the crockpot just wasn't big enough. You'll have to be the judge for yourself.

In a food processor, I chopped the onion, potato, celery, and herbs then added them to the crockpot. Place in the ham bone, split peas, and garlic in there also, and cover with liquid. Let heat for several hours (or fewer if on the stove: just be sure everything is soft and falling apart). Pull out the ham bone (making sure to get all the parts if some cartilage or other ham parts have fallen off), cut off the meat, and chop finely.

In the pot, still vigorously or pulse a few times with an immersion blender to homogenize the soup a bit. Add the ham back in, thin it with a little water if necessary, add the cream, and stir well.

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