Wednesday, January 20, 2010

split pea soup

Since the barometer has dropped precipitously low ('round about 53F, I'd say), and it's raining cats and dogs (there was even a tornado watch in the O.C. last night!), it's time for a nice warm, winter dinner: homemade split pea soup.

This is one of my favorite recipes because 1) it tastes good (duh), 2) it's simple, and 3) I almost always have all the ingredients on hand. It takes about an hour and a half to make, the first 30 minutes of which are active time; then it simmers for about an hour. I like to run my immersion blender through it to break up the big pieces of potato, though I don't bother getting it perfectly smooth.

Serve it with crusty bread, and you've got dinner!

Split Pea Soup
(adapted from The Goodness of Beans Peas and Lentils)

8 ounces split peas
2 potatoes, peeled and diced OR 8-10 tiny Yukon Gold potatoes, washed but not peeled, and diced
a few tablespoons olive oil
3-4 ounces bacon, diced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 1/2 pints (1350 ml) good quality vegetable or chicken stock (I used 3 14-oz cans of vegetable broth)
2 bay leaves
some fresh thyme or a pinch of dried thyme (fresh is better if you happen to have it!)
salt and pepper

Put the peas and potatoes in a pot with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, and then cook for about 20 minutes until both have softened. Lay a paper towel flat on the surface to scoop up the frothy stuff. Drain the peas and potatoes and discard the water.

While the peas and potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil in another pot and brown the bacon. Reduce the heat, add the onions, and soften them for about 5 minutes. Add the drained peas and potatoes, the stock, bay leaves, and thyme. You can throw in a little salt, though I am usually conservative, partly out of habit and partly because the bacon is salty. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer for an hour. Stir occasionally. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. At this point, I usually call it done and use the immersion blender to smooth out the larger chunks of potato. However, you can also cook it for another 10-15 minutes, at which point the potato should sort of melt into the soup. Either way, the taste is hearty, but it's a personal preference as to whether you prefer it to be a smoother or chunkier soup.

The soup will appear very thin when you have finished cooking it, but don't worry, it will thicken up perfectly as you let it cool. I usually leave it out on the stove to cool for a few hours, and by then it's dinnertime! This soup also freezes (and defrosts) beautifully, so don't hesitate to double it and feed your freezer. Enjoy!

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