The pineapple-glazed ham I baked for the Mad Men party I threw was a hit; there was very little left over. But with just the ham bone and a few scraps of meat left, I still had enough to form the base of a split-pea soup.
Split-pea soup is a divisive dish and I know there are lots of people who refuse to eat it. Canned pea soup is especially horrifying. It slides out of the can in one gelatinous mass and just sits there in all its puke-green glistening glory.
I find homemade pea soup to be much more appetizing. It tends to be a thinner consistency (if made correctly) and can be seasoned appropriately.
I went looking online for a basic pea soup recipe and found this one, from Epicurious and Bon Appetit. I find it really helpful to read the comments when preparing a standard, popular recipe like this one because other people have already modified and optimized the recipe for me. The common complaints about this recipe were that the soup was under-seasoned and too thin. To improve flavor I added crushed garlic, used bay leaves instead of marjoram and used chicken broth instead of water. To thicken the soup I both cut back on the amount of broth and increased the amount of peas.
I wanted a hearty, robust bread that could contribute its own flavor when eaten with the soup, so I baked a loaf of rosemary sourdough bread. I sprinkled coarse sea salt on the bread before popping it in the oven. It turned out to be one of my best sourdough loaves yet, and the perfect companion to this soup.
This soup is great because it has relatively few ingredients, cooks in less than two hours, and gets rid of that ham bone you’ve been saving in the back of your fridge.
- 1-pound bag of split peas, picked over and rinsed
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or diced fine
- 1+ cup celery (3 large stalks), diced
- 1+ cup carrots (3 medium carrots), diced
- 1 ham bone, plus scraps
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons butter
Step 1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed deep pan and saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until translucent. Then add the celery and carrots, season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables start giving off water.
Step 2. Add the remaining ingredients – broth, peas, ham bone and bay leaves – and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 75 minutes. Stir the soup occasionally and turn the ham bone if it is not completely submerged.
Step 3. The soup is done when the peas fall apart when stirred. If you want a smooth soup, puree the liquid now. I prefer to leave the carrots and celery intact for a more rustic look and texture contrast. Remove the ham bone and let it cool. Then strip any pieces of meat from the bone (meat on left, bones and fat on right in the photo) and return them to the pot. Discard the bone. Chop up any remaining ham scraps and add them to the soup.