Ever since Boris tried his first bowl of split pea soup over the summer, and with startling regularity, he has been HOUNDING me to find a good recipe for one so that we could make it at home. It’s taken a while for us to get around to it, not because I didn’t have a good recipe, because I did, it’s just that I tend to see split pea as a 3 season soup, and not one I generally feel like cooking in the heat of the summer. Now that cooler weather is upon us, Boris is getting his reward, and it is coming courtesy of none other than our good friend, chef Thomas Keller.
I received Keller’s latest cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home for my birthday in September, and upon my first reading, decided that when the time was right, Boris and I would make his split pea soup with ham hock, fresh peas and mint, as it looked to be an excellent interpretation of the classic soup.
We decided to alter his method in three places to speed up our weeknight production, and to keep things simpler at the table. Keller recommends cooling the stock after removing the aromatic vegetables, and before adding back the split peas and the ham hock (this to help the split peas cook more evenly, which given that we were going to puree them, didn’t seem to be worth the extra time and effort to me), we just threw the peas and hock back into the hot stock and started the second cooking. Keller also has you serve the blanched peas and crème fraîche along side the soup as a garnish, and we decided to add them both to the hot soup before pureeing, keeping just the diced ham hock and mint as serving garnishes. We loved the resulting soup, with its fully pureed texture, and the smooth tang of the crème fraîche incorporated in the base soup, if you like split pea soup, you are gonna be in heaven with this one.
The only thing I would change the next time we make this (and Boris agrees), will be to work a little harder to find a smoked hock as the recipe calls for. The only one we were able to get was cured but not smoked, and we all felt that while the flavor was excellent, rich with the aromatics from the enhanced chicken stock, a little smokiness would make it even better.
This one comes with Boris’ seal of approval, a high honor indeed.
Cheers – Steve
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 cups thinly sliced carrots
- 2 cups coarsely chopped leeks
- 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
- Kosher salt
- 1 smoked ham hock (about 1 pound)
- 3 quarts chicken stock
- 1 pound (about 2 cups) split peas, small stones removed, rinsed
- 1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups peas, blanched
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
- Heat the canola oil in an 8 to 10 quart stock pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, leeks, onions, and a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a parchment lid, and cook very slowly, stirring occasionally, for 35-40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove and discard the parchment lid.
- Add the ham hock and chicken stock, bring to a simmer and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the stock into a bowl, and discard the used vegetables. Return the stock and the ham hock to the pot, add the split peas and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the split peas are completely soft (do not worry if the peas start to break apart, as they will be pureed).
- Remove the soup from the heat, and remove and reserve the ham hock. Season the soup with 1 tablespoon vinegar and salt to taste, and add the blanched peas and crème fraîche. Transfer some of the soup to a blender, filling it only about 1/3 full, and blend on a very low speed until pureed. Transfer to a bowl and puree the rest of the soup in batches. Taste for seasoning, adding more vinegar, salt or pepper to taste. The soup can be refrigerated up to 2 days. It will continue to thicken as it cools, add a bit of stock or water when reheating if it becomes too thick.
- Pull away and discard the skin and fat from the ham hock. Trim the meat and cut into bite-sized dice.
- To serve, reheat the soup and ladle into warm bowls, passing the diced meat and mint leaves as garnishes.