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In Defense of the Split Pea

March 3, 2011

Split peas get a bad rap. I blame The Exorcist. Not being a big fan of scary movies, I prefer not to think about “the incident,” and instead focus on Linda Blair enjoying a delicious bowl of soup for lunch.

I think people also find the soup’s appearance distasteful, but I don’t really understand why. So it’s goopy and green – I’ve never heard a complaint about how guacamole looks.

I can agree that split pea looks a bit like baby food. That suggests something steamed, slimy, and bland, but when you take the time to make a really good split pea soup, it’s actually a pretty complex combination of flavors. Individually, all of the ingredients are commonplace, but they combine to make a really distinct flavor. It’s pretty much my ideal “make a ton and eat it for lunch every day” food. And, despite its unfortunate portrayal in a terrifying movie, it’s one of my favorite foods when I’m sick.

Now that I’ve forced you to picture a vomiting, demonically possessed child, let’s make some soup!

Start by cooking two slices of bacon in a large pot.

While the bacon is sizzling away, you can chop up an onion, two carrots and two celery ribs.

For whatever reason, the British bacon doesn’t seem to render off as much fat as I’m used to, so I used all of it. Depending on the fat-content of your cured pig, you can pour off a little of the extra grease, but leave enough to sauté the veggies in. Set aside the bacon and mince it up.

Once the vegetables start giving off liquid, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to incorporate any crispy bacon bits.

Once the onions are soft, add dried thyme and bay leaf.

And finally, the peas, rinsed and picked-over.

Cover with 6 cups of water or stock and let simmer, covered, for 1-1½ hours.

Once it gets to this stage, you can speed things up with a hand-blender.

Stir bacon back in and cook, uncovered, for another 15 minutes. Add plenty of salt and pepper.

Enjoy, and while you’re at it, get someone else to enjoy it too.

Split Pea Soup

Makes about 6 servings

2 slices bacon
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 lb split green peas, rinsed and picked-over
6 cups water or chicken stock or vegetable stock
Salt and Pepper to taste (generous amounts of each)

1. Cook bacon in a large pot. Set aside, leaving enough bacon grease in the pot to sauté veggies.
2. Over medium-high heat, sauté onion, carrots, and celery in the bacon grease until onions are soft, 8-10 minutes.
3. Add thyme and bay leaves, stir for one minute.
4. Add peas and water or stock. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until peas are very soft, 1 – 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
5. For a smoother texture, use a hand blender to puree soup. (Alternatively, if you let it cook an extra 30-45 minutes, peas will mostly dissolve on their own.)
6. Chop cooked bacon into tiny pieces and add to soup. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until the soup reaches the desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Partridge Fleischman permalink
    March 4, 2011 2:03 am

    I like split pea soup, and I like the green color. It’s also exceedingly easy to make a split yellow pea or split lentil soup or channa dal. But maybe the anti-green-split-pea people think yellow is worse. And people don’t badmouth the color of guacamole because the alternative is a rock hard pale-avocado pico de gallo or something oxidized til it resembles excrement. Green is good for avocados, but split pea soup pales in some comparisons to other pea preparations where the green is decidedly vibrant.

    The easy solution to both the color dilemma and the question, “can you have good split peas without bacon?” lies in smoked pepper. Smoked paprika can be used to season the different components by using a little at each step (it’s easy to wash out the flavor if you try to dump it in all at once). You can also fry up crisp garlic chips and then boil them in a syrupy chipotle broth to replicate the little bacony crunchpieces.

  2. February 9, 2012 5:54 am

    It must be Fall! I just psoetd a Loaded Baked Potato Recipe on my blog! Your’s sounds delicious!

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