Improvising Soup

Text and photo by Pam Hoenig


One of my resolutions for the new year was to make soup—lots and lots of soup.

In this penultimate week of January, I’m happy to say this is one resolution I’m actually keeping. Over the weekend, pea soup was on the docket. I’ve only made pea soup as a postscript to baked ham, cooking the split peas with the leftover bone, then shredding the meat clinging to it into the finished soup.

This time the peas lead the charge. To provide the requisite hammy-ness, I bought a one-pound ham steak and seared it well in the soup pot before starting, then took it out; that left a lot of browned bits stuck to the bottom. In went one chopped onion and two chopped carrots, which I sautéed in a couple tablespoons of oil just until softened, followed by a pound of split peas, stirred until they were coated with the oil and veggies.

When making pea soup with a ham bone, I usually just add water. Here I added four cups each of chicken broth and water, as well as a bottle of beer—nothing special, just a bottle of light beer left over from the holidays—then scraped the bottom to get all that tasty brownness off the bottom and dissolved into the liquid. After adding a little salt and pepper, and a couple of bay leaves, I let it gently simmer until the peas got soft. I stirred in what was left of a container of baby spinach, let it cook for a couple of minutes, then took a stick blender to it until it was a smooth puree. In went the ham steak, cut into small cubes, and I let it heat through for a few minutes.

I’ve eaten pea soup all my life, but this one was different; my husband even commented on it. First of all, it had a lovely color, a lighter green speckled with the darker green of the spinach. It was smooth, and delicious, and satisfying, as pea soup should be, but it also had a lightness to it, which I’m thinking might have been contributed by the beer.

It’s all gone now but I’ll be making it again before too long, experimenting with different kinds of greens on the next go-round.

Posted in Behind The Scenes

One Comment

  1. Susan Ohanian said...

    I made pea soup last night with 3 generous ham hocks. I wish I’d read this & added beer & spinach. Next time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *