Potage aux Petits Pois (Pea Soup)

In Recipies on April 9, 2013 at 10:34 am

I originally ran a pea soup recipe in February 2012. This one is quite similar, but different (thank you, Yogi Berra). This variation is a bit more authentic to one from 1800s in Paris. Give it a try. What can it hurt?

Pea soup has an interesting history. This hearty soup is also known by its eponym, potage Saint-Germain. It takes this name from the suburb of Paris where, according to food historians, it was first concocted.

Saint-Germain, in olden days, was on the verge of rural living. Green peas were counted among the local crops. Cheap and readily available, green peas naturally found their way into soup, the staple food of subsistence living.

While not entirely authentic to its origin, I almost always add potatoes to my pea soup. They add a bit of pleasant body and creaminess to the soup and adding a cup or two of diced potato at the finish gives it a pleasant ‘chew’.

The essential base for good pea soup is a good vegetable broth. When vegetables are in season (or on sale) all of my vegetable trimmings go into a five-gallon pot of water. The brew varies by what is in abundance, just like in old Paris. Celery tops, squash stubs, and other stuff most people pitch in the trash or compost heap, makes a wonderful broth which I carefully strain and then freeze. This method gives me enough broth to last through the cold and damp months when soups are coveted table faire.

Many recipes for pea soup include bacon or ham. Because my Invisible Friend has a ‘thing’ against eating pig, I either flavor my soup base with ‘turkey ham’ or by boiling several saved beef bones in the vegetable broth. Meat flavoring can be omitted though. When it is, I cook the vegetables in real butter instead of olive oil.

Let’s make some soup. You’ll need:

1 lb split peas, sorted and rinsed

1 C celery, diced

1 bay leaf

1 large onion, diced

8 C vegetable broth

½ C dry white wine

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into wheels

2 C ‘ham’, cubed (optional) or boil bones in broth

3 TBS olive oil or butter

1 C half and half

1 tsp dried marjoram

¼ tsp fennel seeds, cracked

4 large potatoes, peeled and diced (divided)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the washed and sorted peas in a large, covered pot. Add enough water to fully cover the peas. Bring the peas to a rolling boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool a bit, and then strain the peas to remove the water. Rinse the peas under cold water. Rinse out the pot.

Heat the olive oil (or butter) in the pot, over medium heat. ‘Sweat’ the onion and celery until they are translucent and glistening. Remove the vegetables to a clean platter. Toss the ham into the pot and brown its edges. Remove the ham to a second plate and return the cooked vegetables to the pot. Stir in the vegetable broth, all but 1 C of the diced potatoes, wine, fennel seeds, and marjoram. Return the peas to the pot, cover, and cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes, until the peas are soft.

Find and remove the bay leaf. Stir in the half and half and process the soup to a smooth consistency.

[Use a ‘stick’ blender for this part or use a regular food processor. If you use a regular food processor (or blender) allow the soup to cool a bit before processing or blending it.]

Return the soup to a slow simmer. Stir in the remaining potatoes, the ham (if using), and the carrot wheels. Check the seasoning and add salt or pepper as needed. Serve in deep bowls and have the pepper mill at the table.



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