Monday, October 1, 2012

Split Pea and Country Ham Soup

Prepared September 29, 2012. Modified from a recipe from America's Test Kitchen. An alternative to pea soup that doesn't require a meaty ham bone. Staged addition of ingredients cooks each appropriately.
2 T unsalted butter
1 large onion (about 1-1/2 c), chopped fine
1/2 t salt
2 t minced garlic
8 c hot water
12 oz country ham steaks, cut into quarters
1 lb green split peas, checked for pebbles and rinsed
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 t dry
2 bay leaves
1/2 T sugar
1 c (150 g) carrot, small cubes
1 c (150 g) celery, small dice
1/4 c (50 g) quick-cooking pearl barley (see Note)
freshly ground black pepper
Heat butter in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When lightly browned, add the onion and salt.  Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add water, ham steak, peas, sugar, thyme, and bay leaves. Increase heat and bring to simmer, stirring frequently to keep peas from sticking. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the ham pieces and set aside to cool. Add the carrots and celery and return to a simmer. When the ham pieces are cool enough to handle, trim away the skin and fat, cut the lean into small dice, and add the meat back to the soup. Continue to simmer covered for 15 minutes, add the barley, and continue until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes longer. 
Variation: Replace two cups of water with a 14.5-oz can of diced tomatoes. [Note: If using natural pearl barley, add it with the carrots to allow adequate cooking] Remove and discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Season generously with pepper and add salt if needed. Hot buttered biscuits make a good side.