Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Best Split-Pea Soup Ever

I recently wrote about a mongrel split-pea, lentil and ham soup. That was a great soup, thrown together with a variety of legumes in small quantities that were taking up space in our pantry.

Well, we recently put together a birthday party for our friend Desson and inherited the meaty bone from a honey-glazed, spiral-cut ham. I've been saving it for a split-pea soup. In honor of the occasion, I stopped at Whole Foods for some split peas from the bulk section.

Soups are great for cleaning out the crisper drawer. This one calls for one onion, diced small, and the one-and-one-half carrots I had in the fridge, peeled and diced small. I also had a medium-sized parsnip, so I peeled and diced that up as well. All those things were sauteed about eight minutes with 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and a teaspoon of kosher salt at the bottom of my Le Creuset pot.

I then added the ham bone (you could make a vegetarian version omitting the ham bone and using vegetable stock), a bouquet garni--made with several sprigs thyme, two bay leaves and a half-dozen peppercorns wrapped in cheese cloth--one pound split peas, then the four cups turkey stock (the end, finally) I had left in the fridge and four cups of water, or until the liquid rose to about one inch below the top of the pot.

Bring this to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook gently for several hours, or until the ham has fallen off the bone and the peas are completely disintegrated.

I've never had a better split-pea soup, neither too pasty nor too thin. Serve it hot with a wedge of your best iron-skillet corn bread. This is dinner for a cold, winter night when ice is hanging off the eaves and the wind is knocking on your window.