Here’s a version of Split Pea Soup that makes a nutritional meal in a bowl and tastes good. It starts with chicken broth that is improved with herbs (thyme, parsley and a bay leaf), minced garlic, celery and onion. The bacon brings on a smoky layer of flavor and carrots add a touch of sweetness. Potatoes give it some heft, while white pepper and a squeeze of lemon add their perfume as well as an edge of acidity.
I like homemade croutons tossed with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for topping this soup, as well as a few drops of Tabasco sauce.
Split Pea Soup with Potatoes and Bacon
1 pound dried split peas
3 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch strips (see note)
1/2 cup minced celery
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in small dice
2-cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 quarts chicken broth
1/2 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme leaf or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into medium dice
3 medium carrots, sliced and cut in small dice
Juice from half a medium lemon
Salt, to taste
Pinch of white pepper
Several drops Tabasco sauce, or to taste, optional (see note)
Croutons, for optional garnish
Wash the split peas in a small colander and pick them over to take out any that are discolored. Set aside.
Put the bacon in a heavy-bottomed soup pot on the stove over medium heat and fry it until it renders some fat.
Note: If you have a ham bone, ham hock or smoked turkey leg, you can also add this to the soup after you have added the broth to the pot.
To it, add the celery, onions and garlic. Cook together, stirring, until the bacon has begun to brown and the vegetables are cooked through, but not browned. Add the chicken broth, bay leaf, thyme and minced parsley. (Remember, before serving, to take the bay leaf out of the soup.) Add the washed split peas.
Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Then, add the potatoes and carrots, lemon juice, salt and white pepper. Add Tabasco to taste, if using. Cook another 30 minutes, or until peas and vegetables are tender.
Note: If you like a spicy split pea soup, put in a small red chile, such as a jap chile or even a chile de arbol, if you want some heat. Remember, you can always put the Tabasco or chile pepper flakes on the side when you serve.
Top the soup with croutons, or serve with crusty sourdough bread.
Makes 2 quarts, or about 8 servings.
From Bonnie Walker