Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Craving for split pea and ham soup
satisfied by slow cooker recipe

Every year about this time I have a major hankering for split pea and ham soup.
   My mom always made it in the fall when I was a kid, and I remember loving every spoonful of it. It was warm and creamy, with a green color that made it seem mysterious, wonderful and wacky.
   I haven’t yet satisfied my own craving until recently, however, when I saw Emeril's Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup (click for the recipe), developed by chef Emeril Lagasse. The recipe was in Everyday Food magazine.
   I haven’t used my slow cooker in a long time, so here was a chance to get two things done at once: Get the slow cooker going again and satisfy my craving for split pea soup.
   The slow cooker makes this recipe magnificently easy to make. I made it late in the morning one Sunday, taking the half hour required to prepare the ingredients and put them in the slow cooker, then turning it on at noon. Six hours and a bit later, we were enjoying split pea soup.
   And it was wonderful. My craving was satisfied.
   Since I ate split pea soup when I was young without complaining, I suspect that it’s a family-friendly dish. Emeril makes it and eats it with his two young children, so that’s an assurance. (Although, it can wreak a bit of havoc on the ol' digestive system, making things a bit gassy, so keep that in mind.)
   The recipe produces a lot, so it will make for great lunches during the week, or put it in the freezer to enjoy another time. Add a bit of water when warming it up in the microwave or on the stovetop to loosen it up and get it creamy again.
   I bought the required ham hocks at my local butcher.
   Ten cups of low-sodium chicken broth is brought to a boil, then carefully poured into a five- to six-quart slow cooker. Two pounds of dried green split peas, diced onion, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, minced garlic and thyme, bay leaves and two small ham hocks are placed in the broth.
   The soup is covered and cooked on high until the split peas are creamy (six hours), and is stirred occasionally.
   The ham hocks are removed from the slow cooker, and the skin and bones are discarded along with the bay leaves. The meat is diced, and the peas lightly mashed with the back of a wooden spoon. The ham is returned to the soup, then the soup is served.

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