A few weeks ago, I had to go the bank during my lunch break. I do most of my banking at Bank of America on State Street, across the street from where I used to work. Since I was already parked downtown, I figured I might as well head over to Thames River Greenery and grab a quick bite to eat before heading back to the office. I had in my head that I really wanted soup that day, so that's what I ordered. The soup of the day was split pea with ham. Split pea soup has never been one of my favorites, mostly because of its resemblance to baby food, but it smelled good, so I ordered it anyway.
Wow, was that soup delicious. It was possibly the best soup I've ever had. And ever since that day. I've had it in the back of my head that I was going to make split pea soup. I happened to find a recipe while flipping through an old Sara Moulton cookbook, and, since I had a starting point (I almost always modify) decided that tonight was the night, mainly because Noe was at tennis and would eat whatever I made when he got home without complaining about the lack of meat.
The first thing I did was chop up an onion and cook it in olive oil until is was soft. Once the onion had been cooked enough, I put two ham hocks, a quartered ham steak, a pound of split peas, some chopped up carrots and celery, and eight cups of chicken stock into the pot, brought it to a boil, and let it simmer for about an hour.
Cooking the onions
Adding everything to the pot and bringing to a boil
After I determined that everything was sufficiently simmered (mostly because it smelled so good I just couldn't take it anymore), I fished out the meat and pureed the soup in batches in the food processor. I added some heavy cream while I was pureeing to thicken it up a little (it looked slightly watery) and to smooth out the texture a bit (I didn't add a lot - maybe a quarter cup).
The meat removed
After I pureed the soup, I put it back in the pan and back on the stove on low. I shredded the ham steaks and the little meat I could get from the hocks and added it to the pan. I also dumped in about a palm full of sea salt and a few generous grinds from the pepper mill.
I finished it off Sara Moulton-style by adding a quarter cup of dry sherry. Just for fun, because the sherry bottle said "try over ice with a twist," I decided to try some, over ice, with a twist.
Sherry on ice with a twist
Yeah. That ended up down the drain pretty quickly. Polly Duncan in the Cat Who mysteries may have been a sherry drinker, but she was also a boring 50-year old small town librarian. I quickly determined that sherry (at least the $5.99 variety) was NOT for me.
Anyway, after thoroughly rinsing my mouth out, I tried the soup. It was tasty. It wasn't quite as thick and meaty as the Greenery version, but it was good. The sherry really added a nice dimension to it and gave it some depth that wasn't there before I added it. I didn't feel like the meat had a lot of flavor, though - it seemed like it was just kind of there.
Stop & Shop ciabatta
Mmm, mmm good!
I ate this with some crusty bread. I thought it was pretty good, but want to continue to play with the recipe and see if I can get that rich meaty thing happening. If you have any tips, let me know!