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For some, split pea soup is an American classic. I doubt, though, that it will ever make it to the “starters” list in trendy restaurants.

It doesn’t help when its name is synonymous with a thick fog. The link with pea soup and the 1976 horror classic “The Exorcist” only made matters worse. If you’ve never seen the movie, a quick Google search will fill you in with all the graphic details.

Pea soup does have its devotees. In Canada, where it is known as habitant soup, it is a traditional favorite with a 400-year history. In the U.S., Pea Soup Andersen’s is a small restaurant chain in California that achieved both fame and fortune serving the eponymous soup. They dish out more than two million bowls per year. If you can’t make it to one of their restaurants, they sell a canned version as well.

Appearance aside, pea soup has a lot going for it. The economy-minded cook will be happy to know that a bag of split peas can be had for less than a dollar. Unlike other legumes, split peas need no lengthy pre-soaking.

In addition to its low cost and ease of preparation, pea soup is a nutritional powerhouse. Even without the addition of meat, one cup supplies 11 grams of protein. It also supplies 5 grams of dietary fiber, or about 17 percent of the recommended daily intake. With the addition of carrots and celery, the vitamin content rises even more.

The recipe below is vegetarian, but ham is a traditional addition. No ham? No problem. In a pinch, cubed hot dogs can also be added. If you are going the vegetarian route, add the smoked paprika to give the soup a smoky flavor.

Whatever your preference, a hot bowl of pea soup makes a warm and hearty winter supper.

Split Pea Soup

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

3 medium carrots, diced

2 medium waxy potatoes, diced

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 bag (16 ounces) dried green split peas

8 cups vegetable or ham broth, or water

Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot (about 4 quarts) over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until the onions are soft. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. The amount will depend on what type of broth you are using.

Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Stir occasionally so the peas don’t get stuck to the bottom. The peas should be creamy and soft. If it’s getting too thick, add a little more broth or water. The soup is ready when the peas are soft, about 1 to 1½ hours of cooking time.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.

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