I'm having a hard time believing that we are in a new year. The demarcation of 2011's end and 2012 beginning feels unsettlingly hazy to me. For one, the weather seems to have done one gigantic leap from autumn straight into spring here in the northeast, confusing the rhythm of the seasons. The days also seem to blur too but I blame that on chasing down an obstinately overactive infant from dawn to dusk. And for some reason I'm having a hard time committing to a New Year's resolution. Have you made a New Year's resolution? And what was it?
For the two days this winter when the temperatures did plunge into the teens, I made a split pea and smoked ham soup that was so delectable I won't be waiting much longer to make it again. The smokiness of ham infused beautifully into a broth that serves as a bold canvas for a creamy pea and deeply caramelized vegetable soup. The small chunks of ham and potatoes added a rustic quality to an already hearty soup.
Split Pea and Smoked Ham Soup
From Cooks Illustrated
- 2 1/2 lbs smoked ham, picnic bone-in
- 3 quarts water
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 lb split peas (2 1/2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped medium
- 2 medium carrots, chopped medium
- 2 medium celery ribs, chopped medium
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pinch sugar
- 3 small new potatoes, diced 1/2 inch
- 1 dash ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup red onion, minced (optional)
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional)
- Place the ham, bay leaves, and 3 quarts water in a large stock pot or dutch oven. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until meat is tender and pulls away from the bone, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove the ham meat and bone from pot. When ham is cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite sized pieces and set aside. Discard rind, fat, and bone.
- Add split peas and thyme to ham stock. Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, until peas are tender but not dissolved, about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over high heat until simmering. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and saute, stirring frequently, until most liquid evaporates and the vegetables begin to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the butter, garlic, and sugar. Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, 30 to 35 minutes; set aside.
- Add the sauteed vegetables, potatoes, and shredded ham to the pot with the split peas. Simmer until the potatoes are tender and the peas dissolve and thicken soup to the consistency of light cream, about 20 minutes more. Season with ground pepper to taste. (The soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 days. Warm the soup over low heat until hot.) Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with red onion, if using, and serve, passing balsamic vinegar separately.