A humorous Split Pea and Leek Soup recipe.
By popular demand, I give this recipe for Split Pea and Leek Soup, or at least the closest version to it that I can remember, and convert into approximately 12 servings.
One of the first times I made split pea soup, I thought I would be clever and add some salt to the soaking process. Here is an example of too much love being a bad thing. The peas I used came in a bulk package, 20 pounds, and there were no warnings or cooking instructions on them. After the 24 hour soaking period, I cooked the soup. And cooked it. And for an entire day I let that son-of-a-gun simmer and confound every bit of scientific and cooking sense I had. Finally, I stuck an immersion blender into the darn thing and pureed it. Even after that, the skins of the peas had not broken down, and it was eventually a big, messy, ugly pot of pig food.
It occurred to me that the salted soaking water was the culprit, however, it wasn’t until recently that I confirmed it.It says so right on the label! It goes on to say that you don’t have to soak the peas, but for this recipe I did. Maybe in another 12 years I’ll have some evidence that it made a difference in the outcome.
The following recipe came from a batch of soup that fed over 100 people. The ingredients are all here, however, the amounts may not be perfect. Use your judgment when making the soup, and remember that you can always adjust it at the end—when you add the salt.
- 1/2# butter
- 4# mirepoix-small dice (mirepoix is the guts of most soups—onions, celery, carrots. It’s 2 parts onion to one part celery and carrots.)
- 1/2 cup chopped garlic (or substitute granulated garlic at the end)
- 3# leeks—washed, sliced lengthwise, washed some more, sliced into half-moons, and finally washed again.
- 3# split peas—washed, soaked, unsalted (or follow the manufacture’s guidelines for not soaking the peas)
- ~1/2 gal chicken stock (depending on the consistency you prefer, start with a little bit less, and add some more to thin it out at the end)
- Salt, Pepper, and Balsamic Vinegar to taste
- 4 oz Prosciutto—sliced into thin strips
- 1 stalk Scallions—cut however your heart desires, for garnish
- 1# Bonus Ingredient: Ham—whatever ham products you have around. Omitting this will still yield an unbelievably good, simple soup.
- Make soup.
- Eat soup.
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Heat a large pot, and melt the butter over high heat. Let the butter get as hot as possible without burning and then add the mirepoix, garlic and leeks. Let the vegetables saute until the onions are translucent and the carrots are soft. Add the chicken stock and split peas.
Cook the soup on medium heat for about 50 minutes, or until done. Arrange the prosciutto on a pan and pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. About ten minutes before the soup is finished, place the prosciutto into the oven, and toast it until the edges begin to crisp slightly.
Finally, add your salt and pepper. Start out with less, and add more. The addition of the Balsamic Vinegar gives the soup some life, an attitude, if you will. Garnish the soup with the toasted prosciutto and scallions. If you happen to have any ham products—bones, trimmings, etc—adding them when you add the stock will help the soup’s final flavor, however, it is not necessary to do so.
Remember one more thing; the better the stock, the better the soup. However, good food can be made from ready-made ingredients, including chicken stock. If you re-heat the soup over the course of the next few days, you will need some chicken stock to thin it out again. Just like people, pea soup gets thicker with age.
Editor’s Note: Rule 20 of An Approach to Style, from William Strunk, Jr.’s and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style tells us, in regards to using foreign languages (as used here with “mirepoix”), “It is a bad habit. Write in English.” In some English translations of Homer’s poems, there are words which appear in Latin, because there aren’t any suitable words in our language. Such is the case with mirepoix. It is a French word, the basis for nearly everything liquid and savory, and our language hasn’t found a suitable word to replace it with. Remember that the next time you are comparing American Cuisine with that of the rest of the world.