My grandpa makes the best split pea soup ever–thick, creamy, smoky and delicious. I’ve never found a better version and at some point I gave up trying. I have the best memories of eating bowls of it on cold fall evenings in the kitchen with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese (we’re Italian, ok?). Of course Grandpa’s soup recipe calls for a ham hock which is both part of the reason the soup is so delicious and why he made it rather infrequently, mostly after holiday hams. This weekend, after a lot of internet-ing, I decided to try a version using liquid smoke. I had never cooked with it before so I was definitely nervous. Luckily, the soup turned out great! Not quite as good as Grandpa’s, but a worthy substitute.
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 4 carrots, diced
- 4 celery stalks, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 4 cups water
- 1 pound bag of dried split peas, sorted (i.e. take out the brown ones)
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons and an extra splash of liquid smoke
- salt (generous) and pepper to taste
- pan spray
Coat a large pot with pan spray and heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Add carrots, celery and garlic and cook for another 3 minutes.
Add the dried peas and liquid. I only used a split between broth and water to save some money so feel free to go all broth if you so choose.
Bring to a boil uncovered and stir occasionally to ensure nothing is stuck to the bottom. Once the soup has been boiling for a few minutes, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes stirring occasionally.
After 45 minutes, my peas were intact but breakable by stirring. I wanted to carrots to remain chunky so I used a whisk to break down the peas (as opposed to an immersion blender). Add liquid smoke. I added mine one teaspoon at a time and tasted after each addition. Add salt and pepper. Boil for another 10 minutes uncovered.
Remove bay leaf before serving. I had this for dinner with a grilled cheese sandwich. Yum!
The thing I hate about all other pea soups except Grandpa’s is the odd sweet and kind of musty flavor of peas. Grandpa’s soup only highlighted the texture and good parts of the pea taste and not what I’m describing. Before I added the liquid smoke, the pea flavor was in full force but after, it was completely mellowed. Adding a generous amount of salt also helped temper the sweetness and made this soup a total hit! I was really crossing my fingers on this one and it paid off. I picked up the liquid smoke at Whole Foods for under $3. The rest of the ingredients (not including the spices, which I already had) cost just over $5 ($0.59 for a bag of carrots, $0.99 each for celery and the dried peas, $0.25 for the onion, $2.50 for the broth). This one is a bargain and makes tons of leftovers for lunch!
THE NEXT TIME
We always cooked our hams with whole cloves poked in them. I would consider adding a clove or two to the recipe next time to experiment but by no means missed this flavor.