With every year that goes by, the drummer in my head beats a little more loudly.
Oh, that wasn’t always the case. For a long time I wouldn’t listen to the beat of my own drummer. I admit to falling prey to peer pressure. I begged my mom to buy the same brand clothes that ‘everyone’ was wearing. I pretended to like the same music my friends did. I did things that I thought were dumb and pretended to enjoy doing them. But then I grew up and now I let my drum beat and I listen.
I hear it when I’m watching Merlin while everyone else is watching Dancing with the Stars or Survivor, While people my age are welcoming the season of grand parenting; I have a five year-old daughter.
I know, I know. You watch something different. Of course you do. You have your own percussionist going to town in your head. That’s what makes life so much fun. You get to introduce me to Adele, Nicki Minaj and Kate Perry, all of whom I’ve never heard before. I’ll pull out some Band of Skulls that’ll rock your tomorrow.
Soup. Soup is another area where my drummer beats differently than yours, and I walk to mine with gusto. I’m not a huge fan of chicken noodle soup. I don’t like tomato soup at all. The bowl up there makes me happy. So does New England Clam Chowder (I have to have Fritos along with that one though; ba-dah-bing).
But, for today, it’s this. Look at those chunks of ham and carrot swimming in a thick, well seasoned soup. You hear that sound? That’s my drummer beating his drum.
As with many recipes that America’s Test Kitchen creates, the process for this soup goes off the beaten path (could it be that they have their own drummer too?) and tries something different.
Usually when I make this soup, it’s after Easter, when the ham’s all finished and the bone remains. You too? This recipe unshackles us from waiting on a ham bone and uses a ham steak instead. I love that idea. The steak and bacon provide the base from which a rich hammy broth is created with the peas while they cook.
Other than that, this is really a pretty standard split pea soup, made much the way I’ve always made mine.
Except for adding the croutons. Think grilled cheese sandwiches without the cheese. Then make these.
If you were out and about, I’m sure you could hear my sigh of pleasure as I ate this. It’s so yummy. I actually like using the ham steak instead of what’s left on a ham bone because the flavor from the glaze that was covering the ham originally isn’t added to the soup. It’s one thing if it’s a cured or smoked ham, but adding any honey glaze to what’s already a sweeter pea soup doesn’t appeal.
The ham steak is pure ham in all its goodness. Cooking it in with the soup renders it tender and delicious. Just make sure you pull out the bacon slices. They get slimy and pretty gross.
Oh, and the croutons; you must make them and eat them. Just be sure to the serving’s worth on the soup, then put the rest away. Otherwise, you’ll pile them all on. Trust me. I’ve seen me do it.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
I’m not a fan of super-hot, but I do like a bit of punch, especially to help offset the sweetness of the peas and carrots. I like adding a couple drops of hot sauce to my pea soup.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, chopped fine
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 7 cups water
- 1 pound ham steak, rind removed, cut into quarters
- 1 pound (2¼ cups) green split peas, picked over and rinsed
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon
- 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 Buttery Croutons (recipe follows)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 slices hearty white sandwich bread, cut into ½-inch pieces
- Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add water, ham steak, peas, bacon, thyme and bay leaves. Increase heat to high and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently so the peas don't stick to the bottom. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until peas are tender but not falling apart, about 45 minutes.
- Remove ham steak, cover with aluminum foil to prevent drying out, and set aside. Stir in carrots and celery; continue to simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender and peas have almost completely broken down, about 30 minutes longer.
- When cool enough to handle, shred ham into bite-size pieces with 2 forks. Remove and discard thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and bacon slices. Stir ham into soup and return to simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with croutons and serve.
- For Croutons: Heat butter and oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat. When butter has melted, add bread cubes and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer croutons to paper towel-lined plate and season with salt to taste.