Monday, March 23, 2009

Recipes: Split Pea Soup with Ham Hocks & Garlic Yogurt

As many of you know, my 88-year-old father is nearing the end of his happy and fortunate life. For the past couple months, as his health has gone downhill, I’ve been spending lots of time with my parents in the Pacific Northwest, hence my lack of blog posting.

I’m heading back down to Washington again on Wednesday. At home in Alaska, I’ve been making lots of freezer food so my husband can have quick and easy meals while I’m gone. This weekend, I spent a lazy Saturday afternoon making a giant pot of Split Pea Soup, comfort food at its most basic.

I started making Split Pea Soup 35 years ago as a college student living on work study wages. In those days, I ate it because it was cheap, filling, and very tasty. Now, I eat Split Pea Soup just because it tastes good. As it has evolved over the years, my Split Pea Soup recipe is one of my favorites.

Ham HocksThere are two keys to making wonderful split pea soup: the soup must cook at low temperature for a long time and the ham hock (or leftover ham-bone) must be meaty and of best quality. Low and slow cooking allows the flavors to meld seamlessly into one another, and the cartilage in the hock to dissolve and give the soup a silky mouth feel.

In Anchorage, Mr. Prime Beef on the Old Seward Highway sells beautifully meaty smoked ham hocks; make sure to have the butcher cut them into thirds for ease of cooking and better tasting soup. The other day, I also say nice-looking whole ham hocks at Natural Pantry; sadly, this store doesn't have an in-store butcher to cut them up.

Split Pea Soup with Ham HocksSplit Pea Soup with Ham Hocks
Serves 12
Finish Split Pea Soup with a dollop of Garlic Yogurt (see recipe below) or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Whether to purée split pea soup is a personal decision, and isn’t necessary. I’ve served and enjoyed the soup both ways. Lately, I’m liking the more refined puréed version; its flavors seem to be better balanced. Split Pea Soup freezes really well and a quart freezer bag easily holds enough Split Pea Soup for two. Of course, you can always cut the recipe in half if you aren’t serving a crowd or stocking your freezer or don’t have a large enough pot (a Dutch oven is only big enough to make half a recipe). I use a mortar and pestle for crushing the peppercorns, but you can also crush them with the bottom of a saucepan.

2 pounds dried green split peas
4 cups diced onion, 1/4” dice (about 2 large)
2 cups diced garnet yams (sweet potatoes), 1/4” dice (about 3 medium)
1 1/2 cups diced celery, 1/4” dice (about 3 stalks)
1 cup diced carrots, 1/4” dice (about 3 medium)
1 Tbsp. freshly crushed black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. freshly crushed dried thyme
2 cups white wine
5 bay leaves
2 - 2 1/2 pounds smoked ham hock, cut in thirds
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Spread out the split peas on a tray or flat pan and inspect carefully, removing any pebbles or debris. Rinse and drain the split peas.

Put the split peas, onions, garnet yams, celery, carrots, crushed peppercorns, crushed thyme, white wine, bay leaves, and ham hocks in a very large stock pot. Add water to cover the ingredients by 6 inches (3 inches if you cut the recipe in half). Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 2 hours. Remove the cover and simmer for 1-3 more hours until the split peas are very soft, the meat is falling off the bone, and the liquid is reduced to your liking.

Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the bay leaves and the ham hocks, including all the bones and chunks of fat. If you are puréeing the soup, process it with a
stick blender (or in a blender or food processor) until it is very smooth.

Remove and discard all the fat and bones from the ham hocks. Dice the meat into bite sized pieces and add it back to the soup. If the soup is too thin, simmer it longer. If it is too thick, thin it with water and simmer for 15 minutes before serving.

Garlic Yogurt
When I’m in a hurry,
or have strained Greek yogurt on hand, I don’t bother with straining the yogurt. It tastes fine if you just mix all the ingredients and serve immediately, though the texture is better if you strain the yogurt. This recipe makes enough for about 6 servings of soup, so double the recipe if you’re serving Split Pea Soup to a crowd.

1 cup whole-milk yogurt

1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. Kosher or coarse-grained salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Line a colander with paper towels. Dump the yogurt into the lined colander and let the liquid drain out of the yogurt for 30 – 60 minutes. Puree the garlic by mashing it into the salt. Mix together the drained yogurt, mashed salted garlic, and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding garlic, salt, or pepper, as needed.


This is my entry for My Legume Love Affair – 9th Edition (MLLA9) which I am hosting this month and which was created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.


Peter M said...

Laurie, it's saddening for your father, exhausting for you as a daughter and caregiver.

Take care of family matters and we'll be here when you are.

Bijoux said...

Hi Laurie, I'm sorry to hear about your father. I hope you are keeping strong and also finding the time to look after yourself a bit. I've missed reading your food posts but I completely understand that you are busy and have other more important things to deal with at the moment. Good to know that your husband is well fed in your absence...I too, make a split pea soup but without the pork meat. I just add some liquid hickory smoke to the soup and it acquires that smokey flavour. I'm sure my version of split pea soup pales in comparison to your heartier authentic version, which sounds very delicious, by the way, with the added garlic yogurt. My thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time.

Peter G said...

I echo Peter M's comments about your father...happy to offer any help if needed too. P.S. Love the oldie but a goodie!

Mediterranean kiwi said...

hello again my friend
i feel for you at this difficult time
everything has its beginning and end, which is always a sad time
glad to see you can write and tell us about it

Susan said...

A gorgeous, classic recipe! It never gets old. Love the garlic yoghurt.

Can't wait to see your unusual format for the round-up. I'll have my recipe up within a few more days.

Rachel said...

This must be a tough time for you and your family and I wish you all well. The positive thing is that you describe your dad as having a happy and fortunate life and that is a precious thing. Certainly, having you there for him at the end is a lovely gift.

I am working on a leguminous recipe for you and will blog it up soon.

Bellini Valli said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Rachel and having loving, caring family has made life all the more worth while living it to its fullest. Also I will look forward to the roundup!!

Laurie Constantino said...

Peter M, thanks, that's good advice.

Bijoux, I appreciate your kind thoughts. Liquid hickory smoke sounds like a good way for vegetarians to boost the flavor of pea soup.

Thank you, Peter G.

Maria, as you know the writing and telling about it has come slowly. But it's now time.

Susan, I've been entertaining myself with my beany round-up-to-be!

Rachel, thank you! My dad's 88th birthday is actually on Saturday. I'm hoping we get to have the party we're planning! Can't wait to see your post.

Val, you are very right!

Kanella said...

Your soup looks lovely. It's hard however to focus on food or blogging when faced with such family matter. My thoughts are with you.

Cheryl said...

Hi Laurie...know that I'm thinking about you and your father. I can imagine that it's not easy for you and your family. I'm sure that he loves having you near.

Split pea soup is one of my favorites and it's something that I haven't had in a while. Thanks for the great recipe! :)