Smoked Ham Hock and Split Pea Soup - for those rainy spring days
I love soup. I make it a lot. For me, it is just about the perfect comfort food. Each bite a toasty hug. A delicious bowl of soup is all things warm and savory melded together. Served with a warm biscuit, it makes a simple and satisfying meal. Yes, please. No wonder the kingdom of Dor in The Tale of Desperaux is a soup-loving place, and the princess named Pea. You've read that book, right? About the brave little mouse with the big ears who teaches everyone about the power of grace and forgiveness. If not, curl up with your bowl of soup and enjoy. I think you'll discover: soup, when simmered over a stove sans metal can, may in fact be a worthy quest for the home cook.
I suppose part of my affection for a good soup stems from lunches spent with my grandparents when I was a kid. We'd gather around the kitchen table and bend over a steaming bowl. Just thinking about the affection and comfort of that place and time makes me smile. See - warm hug. I like to pay back those lunches these days by including soup in the regular menu of meals I take to my grandma each week. A good soup is nutritious, full of complimentary complex flavors and also easy on the teeth. Bring out the big pot and make enough to share or for left overs.
I have a Rolodex of favorite soups I rotate through our supper menu. And when you are a hog farmer, you really do need meals which will take advantage of the cuts of meat in the freezer. Ham hocks - I see you in the back of the deep freeze! A lot of folks are not really sure what to do with this cut of meat. This recipe is the solution. Soup's on!
1/4 cup unsalted butter (replace with olive oil for dairy free) 1 large onion, finely diced 2 celery stalks, finely diced 2 carrots, finely diced 1-pound split peas, rinsed 1 smoked ham hock 2 quarts chicken stock, water, or combination
pinch of dried thyme
1 bay leaf
In a large saucepan or stock pot, melt butter and then saute onion, celery, and carrots over medium-high heat. (Fun fact: mirepoix or the "holy trinity" of flavor is a good way to start a lot of soups). Add peas and ham hock and cover with stock/water. Add in thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook about 1 hour until soup is thick and peas have almost disintegrated but not quite. Season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf. Take out ham hock and let cool. Pull meat from ham hock bone and shred. Return meat to stock pot and stir gently. Serve hot and garnish with a spring of fresh thyme.