The Soup Lady has an extreme fondness for America's Test Kitchen. At first, I wasn't too thrilled by all the nerdish excitement over the scientific explanations of how cooking works or the comparisons of kitchen utensils, but I have to say that every thing I ever reproduced from this show was a winner worthy of repeat performances. And how very satisfying to know that the search for a superior potato peeler resulted in the title going to the very OXO Good Grip peeler that The Soup Lady herself uses.
Easter is almost here and that always means ham will be on sale everywhere you go. It should be easy to find a smoked picnic portion just about anywhere these days, so you should all rush out and try this recipe. Resist the temptation to cut the cooked ham into little pieces - the best part of it is spooning up big chunks of shredded ham that have been ripped apart by hand.
A wise man once said that you can't improve on perfection, so this recipe was taken straight from the ATK website. How can you quibble with anything that advises you to add butter and brown sugar to the vegetables? Try to use fresh thyme if you can and make some blocky giant croutons of your own to float on top. Enjoy:
Ham and Split Pea Soup
Use an entire small 2 1/2-pound smoked picnic portion ham if you can find one. Otherwise, buy a half-picnic ham and remove some meat , which you can roast and use in sandwiches, salads, or omelets.
1 piece (about 2 ½ pounds) smoked, bone-in
4 bay leaves
1 pound (2 ½ cups) split peas, rinsed and picked through
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped medium
2 medium carrots, chopped medium
2 medium stalks celery, chopped medium
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2
3 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into
½-inch dice (about ¾ cup)
Ground black pepper
Minced red onion (optional)
1. Place ham, bay leaves, and 3 quarts water in large stockpot or Dutch oven. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until meat is tender and pulls away from bone, 2 to 2 ½ hours. Remove ham meat and bone from pot and set aside.
2. Add split peas and thyme to stock. Bring back to boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, until peas are tender but not dissolved, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, when ham is cool enough to handle, shred meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Discard rind and bone.
3. While split peas are simmering, heat oil in large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté, stirring frequently, until most of liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add butter, garlic, and sugar. Cook vegetables, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, 30 to 35 minutes; set aside.
4. Add sautéed vegetables, potatoes, and shredded ham to pot with split peas. Simmer until potatoes are tender and peas dissolve and thicken soup to consistency of light cream, about 20 minutes more. Season with pepper to taste. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with red onion, if using, and serve, passing balsamic vinegar separately.