Split Pea Soup!

In Recipies on February 9, 2012 at 9:08 am

It’s been a great winter. Very little snow and the temperatures have been quite mild. Even so, our daily menu still consists of hearty soups and stews having a “stick to your ribs” quality.

With America’s Ukraine (Iowa) finally in the grips of winter, it’s time to pass along another soup recipe. And, to kill two squirrels with one stone, today’s recipe does not come from lands afar…this is an American traditional favorite.

What then, to do about a tribute to America’s Ukraine? I know, how about some Russian poetry?

Karashnikov’s “Another Christmas of Agony”:

 “Mischa the dog lies dead in the bog.

     The children cry over the carcass.

  The mist chokes my heart, covers the mourners.

     At least this year we eat.”

No, that’s not authentic Russian poetry, it’s a gag from the old sit-com Cheers. But if you’ve ever read Russian poetry (or prose) you’ll find the gag hilarious because it reflects the prevalent tone of the genre.

Okay, what about the recipe?

How about a little split pea soup?

I have to admit that I was periodically off the stuff during the Exorcist years. But on a cold winter day, split pea soup stands tall as a favorite of mine.

This soup can be made with meat or as a vegetarian meal. Since my Invisible Friend has an edict prohibiting pig-eating, I substitute turkey “ham” for the porcine stuff.

Morris, a rabbi, and Patrick, a Roman Catholic priest, had been enjoying lunch together in the park for many years. They’ve grown fond of each other and have always been respectful of their deeply different beliefs. Then, one day, Patrick leans over and whispers, “Morris, you Jews are not allowed to eat pork. But tell me, haven’t you ever at least tried it?”

Morris nods sadly. “Yes, I had a ham sandwich once. It was pretty good.”

The two men resume sitting quietly for a few minutes. Then, Morris leans over to whisper to his old friend, the priest.

“Pat, you priests take a vow of celibacy. All these years, I’ve been dying to ask you: Have you ever had sex?”

Pat nods, also sadly. “Yes, I had sex once. She was beautiful.”

Morris smiles broadly and slaps his friend’s knee…“And…it’s a hell of a lot better than a ham sandwich!”

Okay, okay…the recipe!

Some cooks like to use a bit of thyme or marjoram in pea soup. Other cooks make theirs with a bunch of bouquet garni. I like the clean, fresh taste of the peas and a bit of bay leaf helps bring out their flavors without overpowering them like other herbs might.

Remember our previous lesson on using lemon juice to brighten soups? We’ll do that here too. Go easy on the salt and let the lemon juice bring out the flavors of the peas and veggies.

Too many good pea soups get ruined when cooks add far too much salt. Potatoes and peas can handle a lot of seasoning (and may seem like they need it). But pea soup should not be overly salty. Again, use the lemon juice!

1 lb dried split peas

6-8 C water (see below)

2 bay leaves

1 C minced onion

3 carrots, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 large baking potato, large dice

2 C (turkey) ham, diced (optional)

2 cloves garlic, minced

¾ C instant mashed potatoes

½ tsp liquid smoke

1 TBS lemon juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Carefully sort the peas to remove foreign matter (like stones) and rinse at least twice to remove any grit. Place the peas in a large pot and add 6 C of water. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to (low) simmer. Cook about 4 hours or until the peas are soft. When the peas are soft, remove them from the heat and allow them to cool a bit. Then, using a hand (stick) blender, process the peas into a smooth consistency. You can also use a food processor or blender, but you will need to let the peas cool completely and work in batches.

Re-heat the peas over medium heat and add the bay leaves, onion, potato, garlic, and celery. Add another two cups of water. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the turkey ham, liquid smoke, and the carrot. Cook for an additional 20 minutes or until the carrot is tender. Slowly stir in the instant mashed potatoes until the mixture is creamy. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and re-check seasonings. Serve with crusty bread.


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