Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Split Pea Soup with (optional) Ham Hock

When I say optional ham hock I really mean optional. I used to make this at The Still Life without the ham hock and it wasn't uncommon for vegetarian customers to complain that they'd been served a meat soup. There is something about the marjoram and cumin, maybe the wine also, that makes it so hearty and savory that people assume there's meat in it. A few years ago I added the ham hock mostly out of curiosity about cooking with a ham hock - they're sort of out of place and cavemanish in the grocery store, I think - and now I always include it. I love the smokiness from the hock, and the chewy bits of pork. This soup makes great leftovers, but you'll probably need to splash in a little water when you reheat.

Split Pea Soup with (optional) Ham Hock
makes about 6 servings

1 onion, diced
1 shallot, diced (optional, but yummy)
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup white wine
2 cups dried split peas
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces (or equivalent amount of sweet potatoes)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 T dried thyme or about 4 fresh sprigs
2 t marjoram
2 t dried mustard
1 T cumin
red pepper flakes to taste
salt & pepper to taste
1 ham hock (preferably smoked)

  • Saute the onions, shallots, and garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil until they are starting to brown.
  • Sprinkle the cumin over this and saute about 1 more minute, or until things start to get too dry.
  • Add the wine and simmer for about 3 minutes just to cook off the alcohol.
  • Add the rest of the spices, the peas, carrots, potatoes, stock, and the ham hock (if you want meat in the soup, but you can't deal with a hock, you can add diced ham).
  • Bring the soup to a low simmer and let it bubble for about an hour. Stir a few times in the beginning, but since split pea is a thick soup it might try to stick to the bottom of the pot near the end - just keep your heat low and stir a little more frequently.
  • Remove the ham hock and pick off all the good meaty bits, returning them to the pot. 
  • Serve with buttered toast or croutons. Seriously, don't skip the toast.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Turkey & Green Chile Chili

If it seems like the only thing I eat is soup, that's actually pretty close to the truth. It's so warm and comforting and it packs well for lunch the next day. If it seems like at least half of what I cook falls into the tangy/acidic category, this is also pretty accurate. Put it all together into something that is hearty, limey, packable, easy, made in my slow cooker, and is an excuse to let myself eat Fritos and you have one of my favorite meals.

Turkey, White Bean, and Green Chile Chili
serves 4 to 6

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1.25 lbs ground turkey (because that's the only size they sell in the store near my house!)
3 T ground cumin
3 T oregano
1 T chili powder
1 t mustard powder
smidge of cayenne
4 cups chicken stock
5 cups cooked white beans*
1 T pickled jalapenos, minced
14 oz diced green chiles (2 cans)
7oz  green salsa (1 can)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 lime
sour cream
grated cheese

  • In a large frying pan, in a few tablespoons of oil, saute the onion until the edges start to brown. Add the garlic and saute it until it starts to brown.
  • Add the ground turkey and break it up into bite-sized pieces as you stir.
  • When most of the pink is gone from the turkey, sprinkle the cumin over everything and saute until the cumin is toasty or until the pan is getting dry. Add the stock and warm it up (this makes your slow cooker work more efficiently).
  • Add all of this to the slow cooker along with the rest of the spices, green chiles, salsa, pickled jalapeno, half of the cilantro, the lime juice, and the beans.
  • Set the slow cooker on high and leave it for 6 to 8 hours. If you're not using a slow cooker, do all of the above steps in a large soup pot and let it simmer for and hour at least.
  • Serve topped with the rest of the cilantro, sour cream, grated cheese, and Fritos.
*I'm trying not to used things in cans (when reasonable) so I cooked the beans from dried. It's so easy. Just rinse 2 cups of dried white beans, cover with 8 to 10 cups water, and simmer for about an hour. Rinse off the cooking liquid before using them. You can also add some spices and watered down stock to give them more flavor.
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