April 14, 2010

Better Than Split Pea Soup

5 cups chicken or ham stock
2 cups cubed smoked ham*
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup green split peas
1 cup yellow split peas
1/4 cup diced apple (I used a Stayman Winesap)
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 large shallot, minced
1 small to medium bulb fennel, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon celery flakes
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried chervil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon summer savory
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dillweed
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard

Pick over split peas to remove any stones or stems that might be present. Place all ingredients except for the frozen peas in a 4 quart slow cooker. Stir. Cook on low 12-15 hours. If you would like thicker soup, cook uncovered on high for 30 minutes to thicken. Stir in the frozen peas during the last 15 minutes of cooking.

*If you have a minute, saute the ham cubes in a nonstick skillet until just starting to brown. This helps seal in the flavor but isn't strictly necessary.

My thoughts:
We get up super early so I can put this up in time for dinner** but in the past, I've put it in my slow cooker right before I go to bed and had it the next day for lunch. I came up with this super long cooking technique because I don't have to soak the peas before making the soup but it you have more patience than I do, prep the peas according to the package instructions and then the soup will only take about 8 hours or so in the slow cooker. The copious amount of herbs and vegetables add a flavor that is a more complex than the typical pea soup and the peas added at the end lend a real pop of freshness that is always welcome in a long simmering soup. The perfect minimal work, high flavor weekday dinner for a dreary, rainy spring day.

**Especially if I had chopped and refrigerated the vegetables the night before. I've even measured the split peas and spices out and left them (covered) in the cold (not plugged in) slow cooker or in a small container overnight.