Split Pea Soup

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The longer you go without blogging is similar to going without exercise or making pie crust. It seems more daunting and doesn’t come as naturally. You have a squishy butt and empty countertop. I’ve experienced all three of these recently. While trying to make my coworker a pie, I rolled out my dough onto the counter right above the dishwasher that was running. The steam melted the butter chunks so quickly, I had to peel it from the hot counter. The crust grew tough. Whatever happened to baking pie for a living? Oh, right.

I got a 9-to-5 job managing restaurants for a food delivery startup in downtown Seattle.

I used to have my hands in dough daily and drift into my own thoughts, usually crafting a blog post or article to pitch. I would stroll the short walk home and have half the day to sit at my computer to transcribe the thoughts I had while sifting flour and pulling pies from the oven.

Now, I sit at my computer every day and instead, I stare at spreadsheets comparing enchiladas to burritos to quesadillas – not that I am complaining.

In an attempt to get back to last December – when I was writing an article about holiday cheese balls – I made split pea soup.

Thomas Keller, who’s book this is from, seems to overcomplicate many of the steps. What should be a really simple pureed soup is made fussy. There were several moments where I grew frustrated and went rogue. My boss used to work for him at The French Laundry, and today she said her few grey hairs are from him. Surely, if you follow his recipe exactly, you will be salt-and-pepper-chic. I preferred not to prematurely grey and instead found a much simpler, likely as good, version.

So here I go, blog post #5 billion, which really feels like #1 again.

Serves 6-8//A much simpler version than Ad Hoc at Home’s

  • 3 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced carrots
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped leeks
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 smoked ham hock (about 1 pound)
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) split peas, rinsed and picked for stones
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups peas (2 pounds in the pod) blanched (optional)
  • 1/2 cup creme fraîche
  • Mint leaves

Heat the oil in an 8 to 10 quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the carrots, leeks and onions with a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Add the ham hock and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and continue to simmer for 45 minutes. Remove about half of the cooked stock vegetables and toss.

Add the rinsed split peas and bring to a simmer once again. Cook for an hour, or until the split peas are completely soft.

Remove the soup from the heat. Take out the ham hock and set aside. Season the soup with 1 tablespoon of vinegar and salt to taste. Use an immersion blender (or transfer in batches to a blender) to puree completely.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper or vinegar if necessary.

Keep on low while you pull the meat off the ham hock, tossing the fat and skin. Cut the ham into small pieces and stir into the soup (or reserve some to put on top).

Serve the soup with creme fraîche, chopped mint and extra ham hock. If it’s spring time and you can find fresh peas, sprinkle those on top as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baguette with Radishes, Butter and Salt

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I recently read Molly Wizenberg’s (author of Orangette) “A Homemade Life,” which is broken up into chapters followed by a corresponding recipe. Honestly, many of the recipes didn’t entice me at first glance necessarily, but after reading Molly’s narrative it’s nearly impossible to resist making them. That is good food writing.

She has a particular chapter about tearing into baguette with a lover and slathering it with butter before topping it with radishes and a sprinkle of salt. I thought, I want to to share a fresh baguette with a lover. So I did.

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Tommy and I cursed the Washington rain and threw a picnic blanket down in the middle of my living room. Soon the square of floor space in my tiny apartment was covered with charcuterie, cake, radishes and a brie-like cheese Tommy found in the miscellaneous cheese basket at our co-op.

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There really isn’t a recipe for this French combo. The most important part is the quality of ingredients. Indulge in a fresh baked baguette from a local bakery, bright radishes and good-quality unsalted butter, preferably cold.

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Tear through a baguette and spread with butter. Sprinkle the butter with fleur de sel or other coarse salt. Layer thinly sliced radishes on top. I preferred the salt on top of the butter instead of atop the radish so I could hold the baguette with full force without getting salt all over my fingers.

If you’re serving this to other people and want to prearrange it, slice the baguette 1/3 inch thick and do the same as above. You can also lightly toast the pieces in the oven at 350 degrees first.