One of my favorite things about winter is comfort food. Especially soups and stews.
In my house growing up, my dad was the king of soups and stews. Of all the great ones, his split pea soup was (and still is) the one to write home about. To call it a soup is a bit misleading, though. Stew is maybe a bit closer, but we’ve always thought of it as a ‘gruel’ – uh, but without the flavorless connotations… just consistency. (Unrelated: Anyone go to Kohr Brother’s soft serve as a kid where they would “prove” how thick their ice cream was by turning the ice cream cone upside-down before giving it to you? I hated that. Made me so nervous. Don’t mess with my ice cream.)
The best thing about this split pea gruel soup? There’s no real recipe (as with most things I make). And it’s basically impossible to screw up.
How impossible to screw up? Well, for starters, I set out to make pasta e fagiole today. After frying up the bacon and starting to carmelize the onions in the bacon renderings (and snacking on the bacon), I realized that I didn’t have any white beans.
Enter split pea soup.
I had just had some of the good stuff when I was at home over winter break, and picked up a bag of them on my way home. Truth: I was a little intimidated to use them and they sat in my cabinet. (As I write this, I see how ridiculous it is to be “intimidated” by something like this. Noted).
It became a real cleaning out the fridge kinda soup. And, again, there’s no real recipe, but here’s what was in this batch. And it was awesome.
Split Pea Gruel Soup
- bacon, about 5 strips
- handful of split peas (about 1/2-3/4c)
- 1 onion, sliced or chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- carton (quart) of veggie (or chicken) broth
- 2 potatoes, cut into chunks (I left the skin on)
- carrots (I had a random leftover baggie of baby carrots from my lunch on Friday. I know, sooo appetizing. I chopped ‘em up and threw them in the pot).
- bay leaf
- salt, pepper
- Put a little oil in the bottom of a stock pot. Once it heats up, cook your bacon in there.
- Once the bacon is amazingly crispy and smells so good you want to stick your face in it (but please don’t), remove it and set it aside.
- Put your chopped onions in the bacon grease. Heat should be on medium. They’ll cook up pretty quickly. After about 3-5 minutes, add in the potatoes and carrots.
- Let everything cook together for about 5 minutes. Then pour the entire broth carton into the pot. Add some salt, pepper, and the bay leaf.
- Put a lid on it. Bring everything up to a boil. Once it boils, add in the split peas, reduce to simmer and put the lid back on.
- Let it all just simmer away all afternoon. (Mine sat for about 5 hours).
- Once you’ve decided it’s time to eat, find the bay leaf and take it out.
- Blend up the soup. Immersion blender is easiest, but you could work a few batches into a blender, I’m sure.
- To eat it up, I highly recommend a little salt and pepper to taste, and a few dribble of worcestshire sauce. Something about it is perfect on this soup.
If you’re really feeling saucy (I was, apparently), you’ll also make some biscuits to go with it. I made these – they use a little more water then that, though. And, if you’re a veg or just not into bacon, use a little olive oil and you’re good to go.