Thick as Fog Split Pea Soup
As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing that takes the chill out of a winter evening as well as a bowl of classic pea soup. It’s warm and thick, rich and smoky, and only takes a couple of minutes to prep. You can make it vegetarian, but I like to use a smoked ham hock or smoked turkey leg for added flavor.
It’s amazing to think that a humble ingredient like an inexpensive bag of split peas can offer such a comforting meal. Split Pea Soup recipes have been around for many years, and have even been acclaimed in an old nursery rhyme:
Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old
To make the split peas, the peas are harvested, dried and the papery outer skin removed then split in half. Split peas come in green or yellow, with the green characteristic due to a recessive gene. Either color can be used in this recipe, but I prefer the green split peas, which seem to offer a brighter flavor. Split peas are high in protein and low in fat and contain some of the highest amounts of dietary fiber.
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, de-stringed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
2 cups (16 oz.) green split peas
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence
Approximately ¾ pound smoked ham hocks or a smoked turkey leg
Extra virgin olive oil, sour cream, or crème fraiche, for serving
Before you begin, it’s important to carefully pick through the peas to make sure that no stones have made it into the bag during processing.
In a soup pot, sauté the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in the olive oil until soft, but not browned.
Add in the stock, peas, bay leaves and dried herbs, stir to combine.
Nestle the ham hock or smoked turkey leg into the peas and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 1 hour. Check to make sure that the peas are still moist, or add more water, ½ cup at a time. Remove the ham hock or turkey leg from the pot and set aside to cool. Continue simmering the peas for about 30 additional minutes until the peas have completely cooked, melting into a thick, silky soup.
When the ham hocks or turkey leg are cool enough to handle, remove the meat and cut into bite-sized pieces, discarding the rest. Stir the meat into the soup. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
You can serve the soup as-is, or dress it up a bit by topping with a drizzle of olive oil, or a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche.
As the soup cools it will thicken substantially, but will loosen up again as it is reheated.
LaBonne’s Market in Salisbury Connecticut sells the largest ham hocks I’ve ever seen! Each hock has plenty of meat on them and lots of flavor. If you can only find the traditional-sized smaller ham hocks, they will flavor the soup well, but you may have to add some chopped sliced ham to add meatiness to the soup, or choose a smoked turkey leg, which will be less fatty and offer a lot of meat.