split pea soup with fresh peas and mint

So, I know that June isn’t typically soup season. But here in the Bay Area, the rain is lingering. It ain’t right. But it is a good excuse for soup making.

Let’s talk split pea soup. Split pea is one of my favorites, but I rarely order it in restaurants because it tends to be on the salty side. So I really only eat it if it’s homemade. I’ve always loved my mom’s split pea soup. It is among the dishes that Jansy makes best. For as long as I can remember, she would make white bean or split pea soup whenever there was a ham bone in the house. And I’ve followed suit.

Every now and then I get my hands on a ham bone. And when I do I like to make a pot of split pea soup. It’s usually a pretty low key affair. I throw the split peas in a pot with the ham bone, sauteed onion and carrot, a few sprigs of thyme, and water. Then I leave it alone for an hour or so and it turns into a super flavorful, hearty soup.

This time around, I wanted to try something new. A few months back, I had bookmarked a recipe in Ad Hoc at Home and have been waiting patiently for springtime English peas and a ham bone to come my way. Finally, the time had come.

This is split pea soup, Thomas Keller style. In other words, it’s fancy split pea soup. I love how this man can transform even the most humble of dishes into elegant fare. This soup is pureed until silky smooth and finished off with a little creme fraiche, fresh peas, and mint, which take it to a whole new level. It’s a bowl of soup that is all at once comforting and totally refreshing. I think it’s kind of perfect.

split pea soup with fresh peas and mint

adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

serves 6

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 cups thinly sliced carrots

2 cups coarsely chopped leeks

2 cups coarsely chopped onions

kosher salt

1 smoked ham hock ( I used a ham bone)

3 quarts chicken stock

1 pound (about 2 cups) split peas, small stones removed, rinsed

1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

freshly round black pepper

2 cups fresh English peas, blanched (frozen peas will work fine)

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

mint leaves

Heat the canola oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the carrots, leeks, onions, and generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a parchment lid (a round of parchment paper cut to fit your pot), and cook very slowly, stirring occasionally, for 35-40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove and discard the parchment lid.

Add the ham hock and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the stock into a bowl, discard the vegetables, and reserve the ham hock. Place the bowl of stock over an ice bath and stir to cool.

Return the cooled stock and ham hock to the pot, add the split peas, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the peas are completely soft.

Remove from the heat, and remove and reserve the ham hock. Season the soup with 1 tablespoon vinegar and salt to taste. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup (if using a regular stand blender, puree the soup in batches). Taste for seasoning, adding vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Remove and discard the skin and fat from the ham hock. Trim the meat and dice into 1/2-inch pieces.

To serve, reheat the fresh peas in a little water. Drain and stir half the peas into the soup. Garnish the soup with the remaining peas, creme fraiche, ham, and mint leaves. The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Add a bit of water or stock when reheating if the soup becomes too thick.