Monday, March 5, 2012

split pea soup with smoked turkey (or smoky cauliflower)

first things first - split pea soup is not the belle of the ball. it's homely in both the american and the british sense (more like what we mean when we say "homey" - like the simple comforts of home). until this week, it was also something that i can't remember eating, if i ever have, because it almost invariably has a ham hock or something like that in it.

i was a vegetarian for a number of years, then about 10 years ago i started eating fish occasionally. i guess it was a slippery slope, because a few years after that i moved on to humanely-raised poultry as well. we still don't eat much meat - i probably do once a week or so, on average. i never took up eating beef, pork, etc. (it just was never something we really ate when i was growing up and it doesn't appeal to me) either, so i've missed out on split pea soup for way too long.

however, the store at which i get our poultry (new seasons market - it only carries humanely-raised meats, which i think is important to support) recently started carrying smoked turkey sometimes. when i saw some huge crazy dinosaur-turkey wings and some pretty split peas, it all came together in a perfect storm of delicious. you could, of course, also use a ham hock or whatever if you are of more of a pork-eating persuasion. or make some roasted cauliflower with lots of smoked paprika tossed into it and use that - it won't be the same, but it will be vegan and (i'm pretty sure) equally tasty.

this soup only has 6 ingredients and is incredibly simple to make. as i mentioned previously, i'm super busy these days with working, going to school, job-searching, and preparing to move back to texas (!), so ease and simplicity in food-making is particularly appealing right now.

for a pretty big pot of soup (it only gets better the next day/s) you need about 1 - 1 1/2 pounds of dried split peas (i used yellow and green, but i don't think color matters once it's cooked), a couple of carrots, an onion, garlic (i used 5 large cloves because we are Garlic People, but you can use less if you plan on making out with someone later on), a couple of stems of thyme and some smoked turkey on the bone. dead easy.

first chop up the vegetables. the garlic just needs a largish mince, then do the carrots and onions in a large dice. i used organic carrots, so i didn't even peel them - just cut them into quarters the long way then cut into medium chunks. i leave the thyme as it is and just stick the whole stems and leaves in - the leaves end up falling off as it cooks, so just remember to take the stems out before you chow down. you could also add a bay leaf or two, but i didn't have any and i'm not 100% convinced that they really add anything.

heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot on medium heat. put the onion in and let it cook down a bit - you don't necessarily need it to brown, but just let it get kind of translucent - maybe let it go for 5 minutes or so, stirring relatively frequently. then add the garlic and let that go for another minute-ish before adding the carrot and thyme. after another couple-few minutes (3?), add the peas and whole turkey wings, and cover with water. you want the water to cover everything by a solid 2-3 inches or so.

eek. these are the (slightly scary) smoked turkey wings. i don't know if it's the fresh air or the roaming they do as they grow or if i just don't really know how big turkeys are, but these seemed HUGE. i think one could definitely use 2 instead of 3 in this, but they were really good (and super cheap), so i'm content with having used 3.

turn the burner up to high until the water boils, then turn it down to low-medium and let those puppies cook together until the peas get tender. this will probably take a while, but you don't have to be hovering over the pot the whole time. just go do whatever you need to around the house and check and stir everything every so often (15 minutes? 30? i think either is fine, as long as the heat is pretty low).

once the peas are pretty tender, take the turkey wings out and set them aside in something, leaving the peas to cook more. once the wings cool, you can strip the delicious smoky meat off them and add it back to the soup. it's pretty tough from the smoking, so you want to tear it into pretty small pieces (like bite-sized for a pomeranian? probably not much bigger than your thumbnail). add the meat into the cooking peas and just keep cooking everything until most of the peas disintegrate and the whole thing is soft and thick and comforting, just like a big fat wool sweater of a soup (i think mine ended up cooking for about 3 hours, in total. but don't let it scare you - most of it is unattended and it is so worth it!). if it seems to be too thick at any point, add some more water. it's not a terribly exacting sort of recipe.

once it's done, you may need to add a little salt, pepper, or more thyme. the smoked turkey can be quite salty, though, so definitely wait until the end so you can see if it even needs it.

see? not that pretty. but as jean-ralphio would say (and as i've been repeating in my head for the last 5 days or so), that shiz is straight-up deloicious.

if you want to try the cauliflower thing, i would roast it with a good couple of teaspoons of smoked paprika, then add it towards the end of cooking the peas so it doesn't get too mushy.

1 - 1 1/2 lbs (or so - like 3-4 cups?)
2 carrots
1 onion
3-5 cloves garlic
2-3 thyme stems
2-3 smoked turkey wings (or 1/2 a cauliflower, roasted, or other smoked things)

listening to: grizzly bear (really just all of veckatimest), covers of daydream believer (rip, davy jones)


  1. I've wondered the same thing about bay leaves! I always put them in spaghetti sauce and tomato-y soups, but I have no idea what they actually do. Maybe time for an experiment?

  2. YES. let's get to the bottom of this. i think part of the problem is that they're usually just dried out leaves that have been sitting in the cupboard for like 10 years. but also i don't think they do much regardless (though i also use them sometimes).