Here’s a perfect way to use leftover baked ham. This soup is incredibly substantial and richly flavored. Served with a salad and a bowl of Crispy Garlic Croutons, or a basket of hot Baking Powder Biscuits, it makes a robust lunch or Sunday supper.
Although this recipe can easily be halved, I purposely made it large because this soup freezes so well. The correct consistency of pea soup is strictly personal. I’ve seen pea soup made so thick that it almost needed a fork! I prefer a soup of medium thickness to allow the additional whole green peas, diagonally sliced carrots and chunks of smoked ham to float about on my spoon. But feel free to “fork it up,” if you must!
For the soup
- 7 quarts (28 cups) rich Chicken Stock
- 2 pounds dried green split peas, rinsed and drained
- 1 pound dried yellow split peas, rinsed and drained
- Meaty ham bone (shank) or 1 or 2 ham hocks, thoroughly scrubbed and rinsed
- 12 carrots, peeled
- Salt as needed
- 1 stick (1/4 pound) butter
- 2 large yellow onions, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced leeks
- 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons crumbled dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 cups diced smoked ham
- 1 pound frozen peas, thawed
- Suggested accompaniment: Crispy Garlic Croutons or Baking Powder Biscuit
1) To simmer the split peas: In a 12- to 16-quart heavy-bottomed stockpot, bring chicken stock to a simmer, stir in green and yellow split peas and add ham bone or hocks. Bring back to a simmer, cover pot and cook over low heat for 1 hour.
Note: If using smoked ham hocks, blanch twice, uncovered, in two separate batches of boiling water, for 2 minutes each. Drain and proceed.
2) To prepare the carrots: Cut 8 of the carrots into irregular 1/3-inch slices and slice the remaining 4 carrots diagonally and keep separate. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring 2 quarts water to a boil and place a large bowl of ice water on your counter. Add a little salt and the 4 diagonally sliced carrots and boil until crisp tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain carrots and immediately refresh them in the bowl of ice water, swishing them around with your hand until cold. Drain slices well and set aside.
3) To sweat the vegetables: Melt butter in a 10- to 12-inch deep-sided skillet. Tear off a piece of waxed paper large enough to cover the interior of the skillet and brush some of the butter on 1 side of the waxed paper. When butter is bubbling, stir in the onions, leeks, garlic, celery and the 8 sliced carrots into the skillet, coating vegetables well with butter. Add the thyme and oregano and place the greased side of the waxed paper directly on top of the vegetables. Sweat the vegetables over very low heat, occasionally lifting the waxed paper to stir and redistribute them, for 15 to 20 minutes.
4) To finish cooking the soup base: After the split peas have simmered for 1 hour, add the sweated vegetables to the stockpot and cover the pot securely. Simmer the vegetables, over low heat, for 1 hour more. Remove from heat and remove the ham bone or hocks from pot to become cool enough to handle.
5) To strain and puree the soup: Ladle the soup, in batches, into a large medium-mesh wire strainer set within an 8-quart bowl. As the strainer becomes full, place the solids into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or a blender (see the safety tip at the end of this recipe). Puree each batch of solids with a little of the stock until smooth, then transfer the pureed mixture to another 8-quart bowl. You will have finally 1 large bowl of stock and 1 large bowl of pureed vegetables. (Alternatively, keep the entire soup mixture in the original pot but remove 2 cups of the liquid. Use a hand-held immersion blender to puree all the solids and, when perfectly smooth, add as much of the reserved liquid as needed to reach the desired consistency.)
6) To assemble the finished soup: Pour the vegetable puree into empty stockpot and add enough stock to create the desired consistency. Remove any meat from the cooked ham bone or hocks; discard the bone. Add to soup salt to taste and lots of freshly ground pepper along with diced ham (see note), thawed peas and reserved blanched carrots. Cool uncovered to allow any grease to rise to the top; discard the grease. Place the amount that you will be serving in a smaller pot; divide the rest among labeled heavy-duty freezer containers and place in the freezer.
Note: If using ham steaks, heat a large skillet over high heat with a couple of tablespoons of butter (full or Clarified). When the fat is melted and hot, add one ham steak and sear it in the pan, over high heat, until hot and turning golden on both sides, turning once. Place on a plate, carefully wipe out the skillet and do this same procedure with the remaining ham steak. When cool, cut each steal into dice.
7) To serve: Cover and reheat soup gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, until piping hot. Ladle into warmed, hefty wide soup mugs or deep bowls.
Cover and reheat soup gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, until piping hot. Ladle into warmed, hefty wide soup mugs or deep bowls.
Timing is Everything
All the vegetables can be prepared and ready to cook 1 day ahead. Store them in the refrigerator in separate, well-covered bowls.
The stock can, and should, be made way ahead and stored in the freezer.
In addition to freezing, this soup may be fully assembled up to 2 days ahead and kept refrigerated well covered. If refrigerating the soup in a pot, pull a clean kitchen towel tightly across the top of the uncovered pot and then apply the lid. The towel will prevent any accumulated condensation from the interior of the lid from falling into the soup and diluting the flavor.
Although the flavor of this soup will be richest when using butter, to reduce the overall amount of saturated fat, omit butter and sweat vegetables in 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup additional chicken stock. Alternatively, use half butter and half olive oil.
Safety Tip on Pureeing Hot Mixtures
When pureeing hot mixtures (especially in the blender), never fill the container more than half full or you run the risk of causing an explosive reaction when you turn on the motor. The heat creates a buildup of pressure in the container, causing the food to shoot up and over the top when blending. This can cause serious burns--not to mention the fact that you'll be cleaning pea soup off your walls and ceiling for the next week!