Friday, October 27, 2017

Split Pea Soup

There are some people whose recipes I know I can rely on. That doesn’t mean I want to make every one of their dishes, but the ones that appeal to me have always come through. They include, in no particular order, Pierre Franey, Barbara Kafka, Marcella Hazan, Ina Garten, Nigella Lawson (especially in How to Eat), Rachel Roddy, Yotom Ottolenghi (Jerusalem is my favorite of his books so far), Luisa The Wednesday Chef, Orangette’s Molly, and, of course, David Leibovitz, whose blog I follow and whose book My Paris Kitchen I cook from.

For years I searched for the perfect split pea soup recipe and finally struck gold with the one David published on Living the Sweet Life in Paris, on March 15, 2013. With a few tweaks, I spend the winter shuffling between my adaptation of that recipe and Marcella’s recipe for Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup on Page 94 of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

Split Pea Soup
Adapted from David Leibovitz, Living the Sweet Life in Paris

David Lebovitz adds thyme to this recipe, which I’m sure is good, especially with fresh thyme, but I don’t use it. He also uses a stick blender to puree it a little, but I just mash it around a little with a potato masher when it’s done as I like it chunky and rustic – your choice. I do use bay leaf – always Morton & Bassett brand.

2 slices of your favorite bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base (very umami)
1 bay leaf
2 potatoes (russet or Yukon Gold), peeled and cubed
300 grams dried split peas (1-1/2 cups), washed and scoured for stones
7 to 8 cups of water (start with 7)
Black pepper
I find that the Vegetable Base makes it salty enough. If you don’t, add salt to taste as it’s cooking.
Sour cream for serving (I use full fat Breakstone)
Homemade garlic croutons are a nice touch as is toasted bread served with a sliver of blue cheese

Cook the bacon until crisp in a large soup pot. (I use a 5-quart stainless steel lined copper Bourgeat. It’s my favorite pot.) Remove the bacon and set aside to crumble over the soup before serving. Add the olive oil to the pot. Heat it a little and add the onion and carrots. Cook until the onion is wilted then add the garlic, bay leaf, cubed potatoes, and the split peas. Sprinkle generously with black pepper and stir.

Add the water and bring to a boil. Whisk in the Vegetable Base. Reduce the heat to simmer and put a cover askew on the pot. Stir occasionally. As it’s cooking, if you notice it’s thickening more than you like, add a little more water to get it the way you like it. 

The soup is ready when the peas and potatoes are soft. This generally takes about 45 minutes. When it is, taste to see if it needs a little more salt and/or pepper, and remove the bay leaf. Leave it chunky or puree it to your liking. 

Serve with crumbled bacon bits and dollops of sour cream. Leftovers will probably need to be thinned with water.

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