Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rethinking Split Pea Soup

Disclaimer:  I am not a pea soup aficionado.  I don't have much experience with pea soup.  For years I didn't think I liked pea soup. (That was a learned behavior)  For years I wouldn't try pea soup because I was told by my mother that I wouldn't like pea soup. (She HATED even the sight of pea soup). Then one day about 15 years ago I made a ham.  When we finished eating the ham, my husband said, "You've never made me pea soup.  Why don't you make pea soup with the ham bone?"  I looked at him like he had four heads.  "I don't do pea soup, you foolish man, where have you been the last 15 years of our marriage?" was my reply (or something like that).  He insisted that pea soup was delicious and I could not possibly dislike a food that I have never tasted.  I begrudgingly agreed to make my first pea soup.  I decided on a recipe that I found on the back of the bag of split peas (I was not being very resourceful).  He was happy, but I was not particularly impressed.  Truth be told, it wasn't awful, it was just a bit pea-ish, and peas have never been my favorite vegetable.  So every two years or so, usually prompted by a ham bone, I would make Paul some pea soup.

This past Christmas I made a delicious ham for dinner.   After days of eating ham morning, noon and night, and Matt and Lauren went home (Lauren loves ham like nobody's business - sorry Lauren, your secret is out), I stuck the ham bone in a freezer bag and popped it into the freezer for safe keeping.  Last week I found that ham bone and decided to commit myself to making a better pea soup.  I'd been analyzing why pea soup doesn't do it for me (besides being pea-ish).  Then it dawned on me.  It's sort of one dimensional and I object to its pasty texture.  I started researching pea soup recipes and decided to use Ina Garten's recipe as my starting point.  I've come to trust Ina, except when it comes to her use of butter and can be over-kill for me. 

I have to say, this soup was a winner!  Maybe pea soup purists would scoff at it, but this is exactly what I wanted my pea soup to taste like.  I will be making it again for sure, but I won't be waiting two years this time.  If you like pea soup, give this recipe a try.  If you don't like pea soup, suspend your belief and broaden your horizons and maybe, just maybe, you'll be a convert like me.

Inspired by Ina Garten, Parker's Split Pea Soup, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Split Pea Soup
Serves 4


  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup celery, medium diced
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, medium diced
  • 1 1/2 cups Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 meaty ham bone (leave out if you want a vegetarian version)
  • 2 quarts chicken stock (use vegetable stock or water for vegetarian)
  • 1 pound dried green split peas
  1. In a large stockpot heat olive oil, and add onions and garlic.  Sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes.  
  2. Add the celery, carrots, potatoes, oregano, salt, and pepper and continue to sauté another 5-10 minutes, until onion is translucent and vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Add the ham bone and the bay leaf to the pot.
  4. Pour in the chicken stock and stir in the split peas.  
  5. Turn the heat up and bring to a boil.
  6. When soup reaches a boil, turn down heat and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Be sure to stir often the last 30 minutes, so the vegetables don't stick to the bottom of the pot.
  7. After 1 1/2 hours, remove ham bone from soup and strip off any remaining meat. Add diced meat back into the soup.
  8. Correct the seasoning and serve.
If you are not eating the soup right away, the soup will thicken as it cools.  You may want to add a bit of water or stock to achieve desired consistency. 

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