Food & Drinks

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chunky Split Pea Soup

You know that stock that I just made? The pork stock? I made it from a smoked pork shoulder. So that stock had this amazing smokey flavor. Kind of like bacon. My husband has been begging for split pea soup. This could be a marriage made in heaven. Soup heaven.

Let's go back to about 3 years ago. A co-worker of mine came in one day with a huge container of his homemade split pea soup. Yuck! I hate peas! That was what I thought. It's true, I sort of do hate peas. I can't stand their texture. The smell from canned peas is off putting to me. I grew up with Mom plopping canned peas into the pot to bring them to a boil. I think she used salt and pepper too. She had good intentions. Trying to get us to eat our vegetables was probably quite the task. So she figured if we wouldn't eat them anyway, she could just give us the cheap .50 cent can of peas. Right? So these things were in my mind as my co-worker ladled out a cup full for me. He put it in the microwave. I was terrified. I had never once tried split pea soup (obviously!!) and I didn't want to say to him how much I despise peas. He was so excited and seemed proud to share his masterpiece with everyone.

Once the soup was warmed up and the microwave opened the smell that followed was pretty delightful. I took the bowl and he handed me a spoon. Does he really want me to eat this right in front of him!? He did. He did indeed. And so I did. I tasted. And it was actually really good. I ate the full cup of soup. I loved every last drop. I went home to tell my now husband/then boyfriend of this new discovery! He too was impressed and that's when my love of split pea soup began. I still don't love peas in general. Too bland and mushy - if you know of a great pea recipe, do tell. Until then, I stick with my initial inclination to not like peas. Unless of course they are in the form of split pea soup.

If you don't have time to make this warm, cozy and tasty soup from mostly scratch then I do highly suggest a few canned versions for on the go or a quick lunch. As you may or may not know I am a fan of Progresso soups. I know - I realize they are high in sodium. Pretty much anything canned is. But these are nice and the ingredients are pretty good in Progresso compared to other soups. So I am putting Progresso on this list. My first pick is Progresso Traditional Split Pea with Ham. My 2nd pick is lighter but also very tasty: Progresso Vegetable Classics Green Split Pea. My 3rd pick is Pacific Natural Foods Organic Split Pea with Bacon and Swiss Cheese. In that order I suggest those for canned split pea soups. Now, on to the real stuff...

For the soup I used left over lean bacon (I know - it doesn't appear lean, but then it's bacon). I think I had about 5 or 6 bacon slices. 2 large garlic cloves, 1 russet potato, 1 16 oz package of Arrowhead Mills Organic Green Split Peas, 1 tablespoon of ground cumin, that mason jar of my homemade pork stock, about 1 - 2 cups of the cooked veggies from the pork stock and salt to taste.

Put your pot on the stove top and turn the heat up. Place your bacon in the pot and let it cook just til done. While the bacon cooks peel your potato and chop it up.

I pulled the bacon out at this point - you can see the bacon is not crisp at all but cooked through and there's still the good bacon grease at the bottom of the pot. I laid the bacon out to let it cool.

Put the garlic in while the pot is still hot. DO NOT LET THE GARLIC BURN!! Just cook the garlic until you can start to smell that yummy garlic smell and then pour in a little of the pork stock to de glaze and to stop the garlic from burning and getting bitter.

Now add all your veggies and the chopped potato. I used about 2 cups of the veggie/pork mix that I made with my stock. Already cooked and nice and easy. Stir all of that up together with the bacon grease and then add the bag of split peas.

Now add the stock until all of the ingredients in your pot are totally covered with the liquid.

Cover the pot and let this bad boy cook for an hour to an hour and a half, or until you feel the texture of the peas are to your liking. Occasionally you may want to add a little extra water and stir. During the process the peas will soak up that water and it will need more water to prevent burning.

Ahh, the Le Creuset. Maybe my favorite cooking utensil in the world. This sucker really does a number on soups, stews, meat, casserole, you name it! My husband bought it for me before we were even married. What a great guy, huh?

After some stirring and adding water at around 45 minutes to an hour I use a potato masher to mash up the peas, potatoes and carrots into a nice chunky but smooth texture. I like the pea soup to be pretty hearty so I keep the soup rather chunky. If you prefer yours more soupy add more water. This soup recipe is very forgiving. You put in it what you like and you can most definitely create your own version of this warming soup.

Look at that! Doesn't this just look like heaven? Well, maybe not really. It is split pea soup after all. It's not the most beautiful soup but it might be the tastiest! This is my favorite texture. You can always add more water, like I said. You could even use a blender and make this nice and smooth which also makes it look nicer if you're into that.

One big bowl of this chunky split pea soup was all I needed to fill and warm my belly!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pork is In the Air

It doesn't feel like it's been almost a year since I've posted! I knew it had been some time but not this long. I've been kind of missing blogging and taking pictures of the food I'm making. It's fun for me to cook anyway and while it's more of a semi hobby than anything I've started this strange recourse in my head. A conversation with myself, or more, me describing the food that I'm preparing and telling stories (almost like I'm blogging) all in my head. I figured it was time to start doing a little blogging once again.

A lot of things have happened since I've posted and so that's to my defense as well. For instance, my husband and I are now proud owners of a loft in the city of Chicago. We live in the West Loop area. It's still not all complete - as in furnishings and hanging of paintings on the wall. We just got curtains last week. Beautiful raw linen curtains.

It's fall and the cooler days lead me to heartier foods, richer flavors and of course soup. What is the best way to start a decent soup? A good stock. Is making stock time consuming? It can be. Is it worth it? Absolutely, yes.

When we moved into our new place my husband bought an electric smoker from He purchased the smallest one. It fits perfectly on our tiny balcony. It also produces some of the yummiest smoked foods ever. We've smoked everything from whole chicken to fish to mozzarella cheese to walnuts! This thing is great. Seriously. He's also smoked quite a few pork shoulders since we've had it as well. I save the bones and the extras, wrap those morsels up and freeze 'em. Yesterday I had the idea to make a pork stock.

To make any stock the idea is simple. The ingredients are pretty much fool proof and once you have everything prepped for the soup pot it's easy sailing.

For my pork stock I used the bones and 'extras' from the pork leftover that my husband smoked. I used about 3-4 celery stalks, a 1/2 pound of baby carrots (next time I'd use less carrots), 3 huge garlic cloves, 1 white onion, a tablespoonish of whole coriander seed and salt.

Put your soup pot on the stove, put a tablespoon of oil in - I used extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe's. Let that get sizzly hot. Do a quick rough chop of your onion and celery and toss those in. Let those do some cooking for about 5 or 10 minutes. Smash up your garlic and chop that up. Toss in your garlic and coriander seed and let that cook for a few minutes until you can start to smell the garlic and coriander take over.

The smell will start to really make you hungry (if you haven't eaten already). Now it's time to add your carrots. I used the small baby carrots from the bag because that's what I had on hand. Now let these get hot and cook the carrots for a few minutes.

As you can see I decided not to chop the carrots any smaller. I figure it isn't necessary. Most of the time for a stock, you just remove the vegetables and bones anyway and since the carrots were already small they fit into my pot perfectly! A sneaky time saver but being that I already had these on hand I claim it's more practical than sneaky or lazy.

I like to saute the veggies for a bit before putting the water in. This brings out some of their flavors and releases the juices into the bottom of the pot. It also adds another dimension of flavor to the stock. Sometimes the edges that touch the side of the pot get singed a bit more, the veggies caramelize a little bringing out a touch of sweet and this all just happens naturally.

At this point adding in the pork parts is advisable, as well as a little salt. You won't really want too much salt for your stock - just enough to pull out all the flavors that you have in your pot. You want this to be a base where you'll add other flavors to, so go easy on the salt.

After I added the pork bits and salt and sauteed for just a minute, mixing well with my wooden spoon and incorporating all the flavors together, I then added my water. I have a small blue pitcher that I used. I don't advise taking the pot off of the stove to add water - use a pitcher or another bowl to pour the water over your ingredients. Make sure the water completely covers all of the ingredients in your pot - you want all the veggies and pork bits swimming. Now cover and bring to a rolling boil.

It didn't take long for this to start boiling. Once it begins to boil turn the heat down to low-medium and let it go for about an hour or two. I stirred the stock occasionally which I don't think is necessary. I just wanted to see the transformation of the stock and make sure that the pork bits were falling from the bone (they were).

Once I turned off the heat I let this stuff sit for about an hour to let it cool. I then put the lid back on and stuck it in my fridge - veggies, pork bits and all.

The next day once the stock is cooled completely you might see floating bits of fat. I take a mesh strainer and  get these pieces out as you can see. I just throw them away but you could use this pork fat for cooking later on.

I then remove the cooked veggies and put them in a container to use again. Toss the bones, keep the good meat.

Then after straining you should have a good stock left in your pot and cooked carrots, onions, celery and pork to reuse if you choose.

Pour your clean stock into a seal able container or jar(s) and refrigerate! This time around I got nearly two mason style jars full.

Now to make up something warm and yummy from my homemade pork stock!