Totally amazing split-pea soup

This is a classic split-pea soup so thick you can use it as construction adhesive when it’s cool. It has so much protein it’ll come off the sides of the bowl in flakes as it dries. The key to deep flavor is a stock made of pork and chicken that gets simmered all day long.

The parts:

  • 1 ham hock
  • 1 chicken carcass (back, bones, wings)
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped fine
  • 2 carrots, chopped fine
  • 2 pounds split peas (more or less)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 big carrots, cut in big chunks
  • 4 potatoes, cut in big chunks

The process:

First, make an all-day pork-and-chicken stock. In the morning, put your chicken carcass and ham hock into a stock pot and cover with cold water. Heat it up to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer slowly for about 2 hours. Take the ham hock out and let it cool. Continue simmering the chicken carcass. When the ham hock is cool enough to handle, rip or cut off all the meat, cutting the meat into small bits and discarding the fat. Put the ham bone back in the stock pot and refrigerate the ham chunks. Simmer the stock very slowly for another 6-10 hours, adding water as necessary.

Around 4pm, or a couple of hours before dinnertime, start sauteing the onion with a little salt in a big, heavy soup pot. Add the celery and fine-chopped carrots when the onion is halfway cooked, then continue sauteing until the celery is soft. (This is your classic mirepoix trio that makes for a fantastic flavor base in soups.) Now strain the stock pot’s contents into the soup pot. Add the peas and bay leaves and simmer until the peas start to get soft, about 1 hour. Now add the carrots, potatoes, and the ham from the ham hock. Add more chopped ham steak if you are a ham fanatic. Cook until the vegetables are soft, the peas are completely disintegrated, and the soup is thick, about 30-45 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Be careful, you have to stir more frequently as the soup gets thicker, or it will stick and burn. You know it’s thick enough when it starts to flake up the side of the pot. Go easy on the salt in the early stages of cooking, at least until the peas have gotten mushy, or the salt will slow down the peas’ cooking drastically.

The verdict:

Everyone loves this soup, especially V. A rainy-day winter favorite. Surprisingly healthy since it’s got almost no fat and tons of protein/fiber.

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White chicken chili

I’ve cooked a few successful meat chilis recently, and have just been starting to get a feel for the generic structure of chili. Inspired by a random blog recipe, I decided to try a white chili with chicken.

The parts:

  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 chipotle en adobo, minced
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp adobo sauce (to taste)
  • 1 box (32 oz) chicken broth
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 3 cans Great Northern beans
  • 2 cans kidney beans
  • 1 can red beans
  • 2 cans fire-roasted Green Hatch chilis (New Mexico style)

The process:

First prep the chicken: use scissors to quarter the chicken into 2 breast halves and 2 legs. Save the back and wings for stock. Put the chicken parts in a pot and cover them with stock, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the chicken is simmering, chop the onion and garlic. Saute the onion in a big soup pot (I used our giant blue Le Creuset oval pot). Add a little salt as the onion sautes. When the onion is translucent, add the garlic and chipotle and saute a couple more minutes, with a little bit more salt. Now add the cumin and a little adobo sauce. Be careful, a little adobo goes a long way! When the chili has merged with the onion mixture, add the canned beans and chilis. Fish the chicken out of the hot stock and set aside. Pour the hot stock into the soup pot and bring the whole thing to a slow simmer. Check the spices and salt level. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat and add to the pot. Simmer the soup for around an hour or until flavors merge and everything is soft as you would like.

Serve over cornbread.

The verdict:

Vivienne, 22 months old, eagerly gobbled the chili until we brought out the cornbread, at which point she started yelling “Cake! Eat! Cake! Eat!”

The same dish with more green chilis and no beans would approximate a New Mexican chili verde. I’m intending to experiment in that area soon. The red and kidney beans look a little strange; an all-white-bean chili might be more visually appealing. I also want to try entirely meatless variations of this, with big, fat white beans and lots more chilis.