America's Test Kitchen's Split Pea and Ham Soup
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: We wanted a spoon-coasting broth studded with shreds of sweet-smoky meat, without requiring the hambone traditionally used to infuse the soup with flavor. Substituting ham hock made the soup greasy and was skimpy on the meat. Ham steak, however, was plenty meaty and lent a fuller pork flavor. Without the bone, our soup needed richness and smokiness, and adding a few strips of raw bacon to the pot did the job. Unsoaked peas broke down just as well as soaked and were better at absorbing the flavor of the soup.
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 large onion chopped fine
- salt and pepper
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 7 cups water
- 1 ham steak about 1 pound, rind removed, cut into quarters
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon
- 1 pound split peas (2½ cups) picked over and rinsed
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 carrots peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 celery rib cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 recipe Butter Croutons separate recipe
- Heat butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add water, ham steak, bacon, peas, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer, stirring frequently to keep peas from sticking to bottom. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until peas are tender but not falling apart, about 45 minutes.
- Remove ham stead, cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap to prevent drying out, and set aside. Stir in carrots and celery and continue to simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender and peas have almost completely broken down, about 30 minutes longer.
- When cool enough to handle, use 2 forks to shred ham into small bite-size pieces. Remove and discard thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and bacon slices. Stir ham back into soup and return to simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste, top with croutons, and serve. (Soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. If necessary, thin it with water when reheating.)
Four ounces of regular sliced bacon can be used, but the thinner slices are a little harder to remove from the soup. Depending on the age and brand of split peas, the consistency of the soup may vary slightly. If the soup is too thin at the end of step 3, increase the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the desired consistency is reached. If it is too thick, thin it out with a little water. In addition to sprinkling the soup with the Butter Croutons, we also like to garnish it with fresh peas, chopped mint, and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.