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Seriously Simple: Try this split pea soup with a twist
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Seriously Simple: Try this split pea soup with a twist

From the 5 classic recipes with a twist to start out 2021 series
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Split pea soup is fit for a main course on a cold day.

Split pea soup was a favorite of mine during my college days. It was inexpensive, filling and straightforward to prepare — a satisfying soup for cold days and evenings. This update incorporates crispy kielbasa to add a perfect backdrop of assertive taste to the mild split pea flavor. And it is just one of the many comforting recipes in Ina Garten’s latest book, “Modern Comfort Food.”

Did you know that split peas are a pea variety grown specifically for drying? These peas, either green or yellow, are dried and usually split, which is why they are called split peas. They are often used for soup making because they act as a thickener and almost fall apart as they cook. Unlike beans, split peas don’t need soaking, making this soup a Seriously Simple soup standby.

This soup is definitely fit for a main course on a cold day. Garten’s modern twist on this classic winter soup is to garnish it with sauteed kielbasa that crisps as it cooks. What a taste combination! Creamy split pea soup flavored with a smoked ham hock and garnished with crisp, slightly smoked sausage pieces, like croutons, but way better!

Serve this alongside a bright green salad studded with nuggets of goat cheese and sweet cherry tomatoes and dressed with lemon vinaigrette. Bread is a must for this rustic, hearty meal. Depending upon my mood, I might accompany this with warm, crusty French or sourdough rolls, thick slices of whole wheat bread or even cheese bread. A glass of a Rhone varietal like syrah or shiraz will bring it all together. Serve sliced pears and sharp cheddar cheese for a perfect ending.

Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa

Serves 6

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, spun-dried (2 leeks)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch) diced, scrubbed carrots (3 large)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 pound dry green split peas
  • 8 cups good chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 8 fresh thyme sprigs, tied with kitchen twine
  • 2 large fresh bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces smoked kielbasa, halved lengthwise and cut sliced diagonally in 1/4-inch-thick pieces
  • Minced fresh parsley, for serving

1. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large (11- to 12-inch) pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, onion and carrots and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and starting to brown.

2. Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in the peas to coat with oil and cook for one minute. Add 8 cups of the chicken stock, 2 cups water, the ham hock, thyme bundle, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/4 hours, stirring occasionally, until the peas are very tender and falling apart. After 45 minutes, stir more frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot to be sure the soup doesn’t burn.

3. Discard the thyme bundle, bay leaves and ham hock. Transfer 2 cups of the soup to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree. Return the puree to the pot, adding more chicken stock or water if the soup is too thick.

4. To serve, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium (10-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the kielbasa and saute for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the kielbasa is browned. Serve the soup hot with the kielbasa and parsley sprinkled on top

Recipe and art courtesy of “Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.” Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Parties,” and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)

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