Saturday, January 25, 2014

split pea soup

This soup is one of the more divisive substances on the planet. For some it conjures a feeling of home, hearth, and naive comfort. For others, it only conjures images of Linda Blair in the Exorcist. I will concede one thing to those in the later category: its best qualities are not its looks. Love it, or hate it, this soup is substantive and bolstering, and perfect for when the temperature drops below zero and the wind is howling outside your kitchen door.   

Too often split pea soup can have a homogenous porridge like texture that tends to have all the appeal of muted green paste. This soup has texture, but is still giving to the pressure of your tongue. The visible carrot and potato dice breaks up the monotone of green, and prevent your pallet from getting bored as well. And if all else fails, it’s garnished with bacon, the perfect salty and smoky slap in the face you need to keep your taste buds awake and happy.
Recipe following cut:

Split Pea Soup
Feeds 4 – 6 entrĂ©e, 6 - 8 lunch, and 10 – 12 appetizer 

Equipment: 7L [7.5qt] capacity Dutch oven, parchment paper, medium size 3.3L [3.5qt] capacity mixing bowl, 25cm [10”] diameter sieve or colander, wooden spoon, slotted spoon, small 30ml [1fl.oz] pinch bowl, electric blender, ladle, cutting board, 20cm [8”] chefs knife, metric/imperial scale 

120g smoked bacon, cut into lardon ~ 5 rashers, thick cut bacon
255g dried split peas ~ 1 bag
425g onion, finely diced ~ 1 large (soft ball sized)
10g garlic, minced ~ 1 large or 2 small cloves
240g carrots, small (pea sized) dice ~ 4 large carrots
325g Yukon Gold potato, small (pea sized) dice ~ 3 medium baseball sized potatoes
16g fine grade sea salt + more to adjust seasoning to taste ~ 2 tsp
2L vegetable stock ~ just over 2qts
- freshly ground pepper to taste 

Mise en Place:
Weigh and rinse split peas and inspect them for stones or other seeds and debris.

Cut bacon into lardon and set aside. 

Mince garlic and weigh in the pinch bowl. Reuse this bowl to weigh sea salt when needed. 

Dice onions and weigh in the medium sized mixing bowl. Use this bowl to weigh other ingredients as needed. 

Peel carrots and set aside.  

Fold and cut a piece of parchment into a disk just slightly larger than the bottom of the Dutch oven.  

Render bacon in large Dutch oven over medium/low heat. Cover with a cartouche (disk of parchment) and stir occasionally unit lardon are brown and crisp. About 6 – 8 minutes.  

Using a slotted spoon push the cooked bacon to one side of the pan, then tilt the pan so that the fat runs away from the rendered lardon. Use the lid of the pan to support the Dutch oven in this position and carefully remove the lardon. Set these aside until it is time to serve the finished soup. 

Sweat the onions in the rendered bacon fat. Cover with the cartouche to help prevent scorching, remove the parchment occasionally, stir and replace. Cook until translucent and golden. About 5 minutes. 

While this cooks, dice carrots and weigh in the medium sized mixing bowl. 

Add minced garlic and cook until it blooms (you begin to smell it). About 45 – 60 seconds. Add carrots and replace cartouche. Cook until carrots begin to soften. Approximately 3 minutes. 

Discard the cartouche.  

Add half of the vegetable stock to the pot making sure to scrape any fond from the bottom of the pot, follow with half of the split peas.  

Simmer covered for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.  

Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes.  

Season the pot with sea salt, and add the second half of the split peas along with the potatoes, and the second half of the vegetable stock. 

Simmer covered for another 60 - 75 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes to allow for some reduction of the stock. At this point the peas should very in texture form just cooked, to mush, test multiple peas to makes sure they are cooked throughout.   

Remove from heat and transfer 750ml of the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. 

Return the puree to the soup, and stir through for a thick and chunky texture. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  

Serve in warmed bowls, garnished with bacon lardon, warm crusty bread, and lashings of salted butter.  

Make ahead:
This stores well in the refrigerator for up to two days, if possible store in the Dutch oven and reheat to a simmer over low heat before serving. Freeze for up to six months, in quart sized containers, defrost in the refrigerator. The soup may require some additional vegetable stock to correct for moisture loss during the freezing process, but its texture and color are not harmed at all.  

Be sure to use high quality dried split peas for this soup. Buy a local brand, or visit a bulk food store with decent turn-over. Peas that have been dried and languishing on the grocer store shelves tend to discolor when cooked, and if they’ve been around long enough, remain gritty in texture and never seem to fully rehydrate. 

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