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March 26, 2009

Split Pea Soup with Smoky Ham

A fogbound or snowy day in Maine seems to demand soup–especially a stick-to-the-ribs potage such as this split pea soup flavored with smoky ham. Save that wonderful ham bone (preferably with a goodly amount of meat still attached) and freeze it until pea soup-making day, or simply buy a juicy smoked ham hock and supplement with a bit of additional chopped ham. Either Maine Johnnycake or buttered rye toast go well with this soup, along with a simple side salad of mixed greens.

Split Pea Soup with Smoky Ham
Brooke Dojny, Dishing Up Maine

1 pound dried split peas, rinsed
1 large, meaty ham bone or 1 smoked ham hock, plus one cup diced smoked ham
5 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large celery rib, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried
½ cup dry sherry
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt

Combine the peas, ham bone, water, broth, and bay leaf in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook, covered, until the peas are tender, about 1 hour.

Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, parsley, and thyme. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the split peas and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove the ham bone and strip off the meat. Discard the bone and fat. Chop the ham and return it to the soup. (If using the additional chopped ham, add it now.) Discard the bay leaf. You can add the sherry and seasonings and serve the soup now, but I prefer to purée it as follows:

Process the soup in batches in a food processor, pulsing to make a textured, not completely smooth, purée. Return to the pot and add the sherry, pepper, and salt to taste. Adjust the liquid as necessary, boiling down to reduce thickness, adding broth or water to thin. Let the soup sit at cool room temperature for at least an hour, refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.

Reheat over medium heat before serving.

Serves 4-5 main-course servings.

Brooke Dojny is the author of several cookbooks including Dishing Up Maine.

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