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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I don't care if spring is just around the corner . . .

I've been feeling like SOUP. Earlier this week, a lazy dinner involved getting three kinds of soup and a baguette from Elephants Deli (lamb with barley, turkey rice with fennel and butternut squash, and mulligatawney with chicken and apple), but I felt guilty (as I frequently do) for buying something I am very capable of making myself. So I went to the cookbook shelf, and started (as I often do) in my amassed issues of Cook's Illustrated (organized not chronologically but seasonally: all the January-February issues together, etc.--and I rotate them as each new bimonth rolls around, so the most seasonally appropriate recipes are easy to find). Now, with my family's dietary restrictions (Number Two is allergic to cow's milk and does not tolerate cooked tomatoes very well), and my own dislikes (I cannot abide mushrooms), a number of otherwise good-sounding possibilities were eliminated right off the bat. But when I got to the recipe for Split Pea Soup with Ham in the March-April 1999 issue, I knew right away I had a winner--the only ingredients I didn't already have on hand were the ham and the split peas.

So, today after teaching choir to Number One's class at school (we have performances next week), Number Two and I ventured forth in search of the recipe's recommended 2.5 lb bone-in picnic ham (from the shoulder). When I called Gartner's Meats, and they didn't have one, I got the feeling I would probably have to find an alternative. I found what looked like a decent one at Sheridan Fruit Co.: a 2-lb bone-in ham shank, meaty and dry (not shrink-wrapped and watery). A pound of split peas from the bulk section at the supermarket, and I was ready to roll.

I put the ham shank in a dutch oven with 3 qts of water and four bay leaves, then simmered it for about 2.5-3 hours. Then I pulled out the meat and put it on a plate to cool, and put the peas in the broth to simmer for about 45 minutes. Then I chopped two medium onions in the Cuisinart, chopped three carrots and two celery ribs on the cutting board, and heated two tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick skillet until shimmering. I sauteed the vegetables over pretty high heat until they were getting browned, then reduced the heat to medium-low and added two cloves of garlic (minced--actually run through a garlic press), 1 T butter, and a pinch of sugar. Then I continued to saute the vegetables until they were nice and brown.

After the ham had cooled enough to handle, I picked off and hand-shredded the meat. I peeled and cut into 3/8-in dice two medium russet potatoes. Then I put the meat, vegetables and potatoes into the pot and continued to simmer until the potatoes were tender. I adjusted the seasonings with fresh-ground black pepper and a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar (no additional salt was needed), and served it with multigrain artisanal bread. Yum.

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Blogger JMK said...

I've had this split pea soup made by JaneAnne. I'm not a big fan of SPS (it's a texture thing) but this is the best SPS I've ever had. I'm not sure I'd eat anyone else's. JA: You should think about bottling this stuff and selling it. It's YUMMY!!

March 14, 2007 at 1:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, no you haven't, Janet. This was my first time with this particular recipe, and this soup was about a million times more tasty than any other split pea soup I have made, ever. I'm not kidding. Browning the vegetables, and topping off with that smidgen of balsamic vinegar, made a world of difference.

Oh, and I forgot to mention you should throw in a few sprigs of thyme with the peas.

March 14, 2007 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Swizzies said...

OMG, YUM!! Split pea soup is my fave, and this one makes me swoon from reading the recipe and looking at the photo.

I LOLed when I read the line about not having split peas OR ham in the house, but otherwise having all the necessary ingredients. Heh heh.

March 14, 2007 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Adriana Velez said...

Wow, so funny -- a friend I get together with on Fridays was making split pea soup with ham hock! Must have been something in the air. I'll have to tell her about browning the veggies.

March 14, 2007 at 9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, food synchronicity. I've noticed it frequently while reading your blog, A.

Now that I think about it, those potatoes were really closer to 1/2-inch dice. :)

March 14, 2007 at 11:10 PM  
Blogger JMK said...

I haven't? Isn't this the split pea soup you made a Jodie's when you and Mavis and the boys were here for spring break last year?

Well, either way, I remember eating a split pea soup you made that I found likable because it had other stuff in it and it was a vibrant green rather than a muddy green.

March 15, 2007 at 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I don't remember that at all. It's very possible that I made a bright green (!?!) pea soup and have completely blocked it from my memory, but this is definitely the first time with this particular recipe. There's still some left--come on over!

March 15, 2007 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger JMK said...

Hmm. Interesting. I remember things like big chunks of ham and carrot, which--in addition to its verdancy--was also what made this soup appealing, as well as whole bits of peas. Normally, I don't like SPS because it's all pureed to death and the ham is barely distinguishable. (Obviously I've had really bad SPS experiences.) I distinctly remember your soup, though, because SPS is a soup I never eat. Unless, as it turns out now, you're making it.

Granted, even if you didn't brown the veggies the time I had it, it was still damn good soup!

March 16, 2007 at 3:03 AM  
Blogger Audrey said...

I made this soup a couple of weeks ago and it was delicious. It was likely not as good as yours because (1) I don't know how the ham compared, I just bought a shank from Whole Foods that the butcher recommended, but it was not watery, (2) I couldn't get the vegetables to brown very well in my nonstick pan, which I really don't like to use for that reason but I wanted to simplify cleanup for my husband, so the onions weren't quite as yummy as they would have been otherwise, (3) my bay leaves were old, and (4) i rarely cook and I'm sure all your food is great.

Despite my caveats however, it was really good. I'm not a big soup eater, but I love split pea soup that is not pureed.


April 3, 2008 at 7:12 PM  

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