Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Split Pea Soup with Parmesan Crouton

I am just going to put this out there. I truly thought split pea soup just had regular old peas in it. Like fresh ones (or like frozen, I don't know). Obviously, this is the first time I have made Split Pea Soup. And I don't know that I have ever even eaten it that often. Well, upon some research (Wikipedia, obv.), I found out that a split pea is just a dry pea (ya know, the Pisum sativum). Why are they called "split" peas? Well, once one is dried, the skin is removed and there is a natural split in the seed. And it is mechanically separated partly because it speeds up cooking.

The recipe also calls for ham hock. Wha? I was pretty sure I would have a hard time finding hock. I mean what the heck is hock. But it wasn't hard for me to find at all. The meat man at the Soops explained to me that it is the joint that connects the pig's foot to its leg. It has very little meat, and is mostly fat, tendons and bone. So, might as well make a soup out of it, huh? He explained they sell ham hocks and shanks. He said the hock is the back leg joints (more flavor) and the shanks are the front leg joints (meatier). I got one of each:

And, I am a fan. Of this soup. It is so simple. As always, I find that any rice, grain, legume, or split pea takes way longer to cook than what any recipe says. Blame it on the elevation. Blame it on me. It is a fact. Although, it probably is the elevation because when I use my rice cooker, I never have a problem. Pressurized.

BTW, there really isn't that much meat on the shanky hocks. But you don't need the meat. The flavor is there. This recipe has potatoes in it too and I would consider omitting them next time. Or less. Not sure. The croutons are nice, definitely make for a nice contrast in texture. I might do cubey guys next time for practicality-sake.

Split Pea Soup

1 cup chopped yellow onion (about one medium onion)
1/2 tablespoon garlic (about 1-2 cloves)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups diced carrots
1 cup diced, unpeeled red skin potatoes
1 pound dried split peas
8 cups chicken stock or water
1 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 pound bone-in, smoked ham hock
Kosher salt to taste
Parmesan croutons (recipe follows)

In a 6-quart pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions, garlic, dried herbs and pepper until translucent and soft, about 10 minutes. Add the smoked ham hock and sauté briefly until it begins to color slightly, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots, potatoes and 3/4 of the dried split peas. Add in the stock or water, bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Skim off foam periodically as it collects on the surface.

After 40 minutes, add in the remaining split peas and continue to simmer for another 40-50 minutes, stirring every once in a while to make sure that the peas don’t scorch on the bottom of the pot.

Carefully remove the ham hock from the hot soup to a clean plate. Allow the ham to cool slightly before pulling the meat from the bone and shredding it into bite size pieces.

Return the shredded ham to the pot. Add kosher salt to taste.

Serve warm in bowls garnished with a Parmesan crouton. Recipe follows.

(Servings: 5-6, Prep time: 10 min., Cook time: 2.5 hrs., Difficulty: Easy)

Parmesan Croutons

1 sourdough baguette
Olive oil for brushing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Finely chopped fresh thyme or oregano

Preheat the oven to 400º.

Slice baguette on a bias into 1/4 thick pieces. Place bread slices on a baking sheet and brush each with olive oil before sprinkling on kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Top each slice with a sprinkling of grated cheese and minced herbs and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.

Serve croutons at room temperature.


  1. Hi Shanon, It looks great. I'm really glad you enjoyed it. Let me know how the texture is if you try it without the potatoes next time.

  2. I confess I thought I hated pea soup until a few years ago (and I think I had no idea about split peas either.) Now I really like it! We don't eat pork, so we actually simmer beef short ribs in the soup and it makes a nice hearty meal.

  3. I love spit pea soup - adding the crouton on top is a great idea.