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Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Better than Grandma's?" Split Pea Soup

My grandmother was NOT a good cook. Evelyn Rosen was a wonderful woman who could do many things well, including pouring a great glass of scotch, but cooking was rarely her strong point. We jokingly called Friday Night Chicken "gasoline chicken" and on more than one occasion, the mashed potatoes came out of a box.

She did make a few choice dishes. The black bottoms I still make today (and so do almost all of our cousins), and the bbq beef ribs I now know were mostly delicious due to the high fructose corn syrup'd barbecue sauce she inevitably bought on sale and drowned the ribs in. And she made really good split pea soup. (Though, literally while writing this, my brother just informed me that my grandmother didn't actually MAKE her pea soup. She used the Manischewitz instant pea soup and added water. My memories of childhood will never be the same.)

Until yesterday, I had never even attempted it. Truth be told, before this blog, I don't know I ever even thought of making it. But yesterday, in the grocery store with J, who was craving something "hearty" but new, I came across a bag of split peas and decided to give it a whirl. I looked up a few pea soup recipes, and then basically tossed them aside to create this. It was delicious! Hearty and filling, and chock full of grandma-like goodness. My grandmother used to "put" barley in hers, and when I asked my husband about this, he didn't really seem all that interested. But after we started eating, we both agreed it needed a little bit more texture, even with the seared chicken sausage I used. So next time, maybe some beans, maybe some barley...maybe some extra sauteed carrot added in post-puree. I'll play around with it I suppose.

I won't say it was better than grandma's. I will say it was a little more "gourmet" (hardly, but a little) and that it was really yummy. But mostly? It tasted like my grandmother's, in all the ways that matter.

Split Pea Soup with Chicken Sausage
1 lb chicken sausage (I used the sweet Italian version, with fennel in it) sliced into rounds
2 TBSP olive oil
1 large yellow/spanish onion, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped (I use the leafy tops, too)
4 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
1 TBSP dried thyme
1 TBSP red pepper flakes
2 tsp Old Bay
salt and pepper
2 C (or 1 lb) split peas, sorted through for stones
2 quarts chicken stock

In large heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat 1 TBSP olive oil over medium heat.
Add cut sausage and sear, stirring every few minutes, until very browned and slightly crispy.
Remove sausage, set aside.
Add remaining oil, onion, carrot, celery and garlic.
Season with salt, to draw moisture out of vegetables. Saute 8-10 min, until veggies are soft.
Season with thyme, red pepper flakes, Old Bay, LOTS of black pepper, and salt. Cook 2 min.
Add peas, toss in vegetables and seasonings. Cook 1 minute.
Raise heat to high, and add chicken stock, scraping up anything stuck to the bottom of pan.
Bring to a boil, lower heat to low, and place lid partially on pot.
Cook until peas are tender, approximately 75 minutes.

When peas are tender, turn off heat.
Blend soup with an immersion blender until just about smooth, but still chunky. You want some texture in the soup, not just baby food. (If you don't have an immersion blender, you can blend in blender or food processor, in batches.)
Taste soup for salt and pepper--I added a lot more black pepper at this point, and a bit of salt.
Add in sausage, return heat to very low until ready to serve.
If waiting to serve, kill heat completely, and reheat.

Serve with some crusty bread (I made this multi-grain loaf--a blog post for another day.)


  1. So cute! I love that GEV (grandma ev rosen) drank scotch. You should fill the well with scotch in her honor. I love ur bloggg.

  2. Haven't filled the well, but have poured one out for her almost every time we're home. :) Thanks!