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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Thick as pea soup: Part II

Please pardon yesterday's weird post. Gwynnethenvy, how banal. I thought I'd gotten over my Gwynnethenvy years ago when I moved on to Aerin Lauderenvy, Marina Rustenvy, Jennifer Connellyenvy...Actually, the list is embarrassingly long, so I should move on quickly to the soup.

This pea soup was inspired by my mother's. I loved cold winter days when I would build snowmen with my sister and brother and then come in to the smell of split pea soup burbling on the stove. Mom would simmer the soup for hours with a ham hock, and the soup was always dense, salty and savory, with little carrots and bits of ham.

I get manias for certain dishes sometimes. My first year in New York I got this soup lodged in my mind and would scour deli after deli in search of the split peas. Quite often I was disappointed in the result: a thin, watery, flavorless gruel. But after the 8th deli I considered myself lucky to find any pea soup at all so it would have to do.

This recipe is inspired by The Daily Soup Cookbook (another gift from my fabulous sister, Angelica). But as usual, I didn't measure anything. I started out by sweating one chopped onion in some butter. Then I added five thick-cut slices of bacon (I chopped this after it cooked and put it back in). Then I dumped in the rinsed split peas (probably a pound and a half), three chopped carrots, and poured in a carton of chicken stock.

I simmered this mixture for a while until the peas emerged from the broth. I kept pouring in water (with salt) as I simmered, keeping the peas always submerged in liquid. After about an hour and a half of this I stopped adding water and let the peas cook into mush, thickening the soup.

The Daily Soup uses one pound of peas with 8 cups of vegetable stock, simmers for 45 minutes, and then purees in batches. I guess this would work if you didn't want to take all day about it. But I did, and I also wanted a richly textured soup rather than a smooth soup. I wanted my mom's soup.

I also baked some corn muffins from a mix and reminded myself why I hardly ever use mixes. They came out bland and would best be employed as breadcrumbs. On the other hand, the Brooklyn Brewery Octoberfest Lane bought had a heavenly honey aroma and went beatifully with the pea soup. It was a lovely meal that lasted about five minutes, when Jasper announced that he was finished and wanted to be entertained. Oh well, I have plenty of leftovers.

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