Friday, August 13, 2010

May I Pretty Peas?

As a child, many years ago I must say, the only thing I liked about peas had been the smell of pea soup simmering on the stove and at times - the nursery rhyme:

Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold  
Peas porridge in the pot 9 days old  
Some like it hot, some like it cold  
Some like it in the pot 9 days old.
I absolutely abhorred canned peas.  Mushy almost bitter little things.  Can't blame them really, I'd be a tad bitter myself if I were them. 
When first rescued from the can, they looked slightly pale and sickly.  At the time we did not use frozen veggies, as a family could stock up on canned veggies that had a shelf life of nearly a millennia.  I found any way possible to leave the table without consuming them.  Wrapped in a napkin or fed to the dog.  Any possible avenue of escape would be found and used.
Today, all these years later I find myself in an entirely different opinion.  Let me clarify - I do not hate peas all together; however I still detest canned peas and just about any other "canned" vegetable.  If one cannot find fresh, then frozen is the way to go and please remember to not over cook them.  When I was a child it was the norm to boil the life and taste out of all veggies for at least 20 minutes if not longer.  Let me interject here that canned asparagus is quite possibly the most hideous food on the planet.  Fresh is divine. 
An important thought about peas - they start to lose their sweetness and lovely taste within hours of being picked and once removed from the pod, this process moves along even faster.  Fresh uncooked peas are a delight by the handful or in a salad.
This little rant brings us to soup - pea soup to be exact.  I have come to enjoy this dish very much and it is not a singular dish, it has variety and can have many layers of flavor. The recipe I will share here today is a basic one and I do this with purpose.  You can take this simple blueprint of the soup and launch yourself into the creative ether.   First, you can decide if it should be smooth or more robust with chunks of potato, carrot, onion and other surprises.  Meat or no meat, sausage or smoked ham?  You decide - maybe a dash of hot sauce or extra black pepper. A dollop of sour cream.  Any way you can think of begins here.

    * 1/2 pound sliced bacon, diced
    * 1 large onion, chopped
    * 2 celery ribs, sliced
    * 1 pound dried green split peas
    * 2 quarts water
    * 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
    * 2 cups diced fully cooked ham
    * 2 teaspoons salt
    * 1 bay leaf
    * 1/4 teaspoon pepper
    * 1 cup heavy whipping cream


   1. In a Dutch oven or soup kettle, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towels; drain, reserving drippings. Add onion and celery to drippings. Saute until vegetables are tender; drain. Add the peas, water, potatoes, ham, salt, bay leaf and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until peas are very tender, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf.

   2. Cool slightly. Process in small batches in a blender until smooth. Return to Dutch oven; stir in cream. Heat through (do not boil). Garnish with reserved bacon. 
Create and enjoy a dish that had its beginnings during the Bronze Age settlements in Switzerland, c.3000 B.C.

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