1 pound dry split peas (soaked overnight)
1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
2 cups diced onions
¾ cup celery, diced
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 large ham slice, finely diced
½ pound baby carrots, shredded and chopped (or slivered)
2 quarts chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons sweet basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons Frank Davis Vegetable Seasoning
1 meaty smoked ham hock
1/2 cup evaporated milk
½ pound cooked thin spaghetti, chopped
Black pepper as desired
Minced fresh parsley for garnish
Sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese for added garnish
Buttered saltine crackers
Start off by placing the split peas into a colander. Then wash them well under cool running water and sort through them removing anything that’s not a “split pea.”
Now transfer them to a large glass container, cover them completely with water, put a lid on the container, and let them “soak” in the fridge overnight.
The next day, when you’re ready to cook, set a large 12-quart stockpot on the stove, drop in the butter and olive oil, and when they melt and sizzle stir in the onions, celery, garlic, and diced ham.
Watch for when the onions wilt and clear—don’t let them brown!—and quickly stir in the carrots and pour in the chicken stock.
Then give everything a good swirl, put the lid on the pot, and let the soup base come to a gentle boil.
At this point, stir into the soup base the bay leaves, basil, thyme, vegetable seasoning, ham hock, and the drained split peas.
Once again, stir and combine everything.
Then bring the soup to a boil. . .but immediately reduce the fire so that it slowly simmers.
Then put the lid on the pot and leave it alone for about an hour, stirring only occasionally to ensure that the peas don’t scorch on the bottom of the stockpot.
Hint: If you’d like your soup to be semi-thick, it’s okay to take a pole blender and slightly puree some of the peas while they continue to cook.
But keep in mind that split peas will automatically soften and thicken the soup as they continue to simmer. I usually don’t puree my soup because I don’t want to chop up and disintegrate the diced ham and slivered carrots.
Generally, if done right, the soup should be ready to serve in about an hour and a half. Of course, if a little extra simmering time is necessary go ahead with that.
But at exactly 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat, with the fire still on simmer, whisk in the evaporated milk, stir in the chopped pasta, and sprinkle on the black pepper.
Then spoon out each serving in a large, deep, heated, soup bowl, lightly garnish with a pinch of parsley, sprinkle on a touch of Parmesan cheese, and chow down with a side-stack of buttered saltines.
This is another one of New Orleans’ long-standing comfort foods!
Ideally, you should remove the smoked ham hock, cut all the meat from it, chop it into small pieces, and stir it back into the soup.
Split Pea Soup traditionally is twice as good the next day as it is when originally cooked.
But, keep in mind. . .that the nature of the soup is to continue to thicken as it rests in the refrigerator. So upon serving the next day, you will have to stir in additional milk or chicken stock before reheating and eating it.
I also like to drop a pat or two of butter on the hot soup and swirl it in before I eat it.
But that’s just me. Some of my colleagues prefer a small dollop of sour cream plus the butter.
To be politically correct, remember to take the bay leaves out of the soup before service.
Of course, I’m hardly ever politically correct!
According to my research, Split Pea Soup dates back through the ages to the Polish and Swedish peoples.
Someone, however, told me it actually originated with his MawMaw down in Chalmette.