Imagine this, it's the very early 00's and me and my husband are visiting California. We're leaving L.A and driving "the 5" all the way to San Francisco. Now, I don't know what we were expecting, but I can tell you this experience did not end up anywhere near anything we had dreamed up in our east coast minds. I don't know if "the 5" has changed much in the last 20 years, but at the time it was a lot of nothing: Six Flags, some brown mountains, nothing but brown dirt and maybe mountains, aqueducts, signs for orchards, windmills, thousands upon thousands of cows, and then a pea soup restaurant called Pea Soup Anderson's. Now, if you're gonna be making this drive you're gonna get hungry and you're probably not gonna be craving pea soup, but that's all you're gonna get. So pea soup it is!
Now, in all of my 45 years, I've never felt more like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone more than the day we made that drive. So, in the middle of nowhere, we drove up to a pea soup restaurant thinking, "what in the absolute world is going on?" I can remember inhaling dust while walking into the restaurant, everything was so brown and so dry, and when we walked inside I was taken aback. The inside of the restaurant was pea green too! Mind blown. Still is. I remember being totally tripped out. I know we ate the pea soup and some bread. I just can't remember the pea soup because everything else was so darn out of place that day. I'm thinking I must've liked it because I remember buying pea soup and eating it at work in the years that followed.
Fast forward 20 years and me and my husband still laugh about our ride down "the 5". Then I came across Ina Garten's recipe for Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa and I thought, "why the heck not?" It took me weeks to find a ham hock and the rest was easy peasy.
I have to say we were not overly impressed. Don't get me wrong, the soup is good and if you love split pea soup then you would love this recipe! The crispy kielbasa is really great and the soup is A LOT better the second day, but it's just not something that we crave or feel we need to eat on a regular basis. So, if split pea soup is your jam, then you'd probably love this recipe and a drive up "the 5". But if split pea soup is not your jam, then you might wanna drive up the 101 if you're ever in California, and skip this recipe.
Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa
Adapted from Modern Comfort Food
by Ina Garten
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, spun dried (2 leeks)
1-1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
2 cups 1/2" diced, scrubbed carrots (3 large)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 pound dry green split peas
8 cups good chicken stock (preferable homemade)
1 smoked ham hock
8 fresh thyme sprigs, tied with kitchen twine
2 large fresh bay leaves
salt and pepper
12 ounces smoked kielbasa, halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally in 1/4" thick pieces
minced fresh parsley, for serving
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large (11 to 12") pot or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, onion, and carrots and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and starting to brown. Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in the peas to coat with oil and cook for one minute. Add 8 cups of the chicken stock, 2 cups water, the ham hock, thyme bundle, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 1-1/4 hours, stirring occasionally, until the peas are very tender and falling apart. After 45 minutes, stir more frequently, scraping the bottom of the pot to be sure the soup doesn't burn.
Discard the thyme bundle, bay leaves, and ham hock. Transfer 2 cups of the soup to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree. Return the puree to the pot, adding more chicken stock or water if the soup is too thick.
To serve, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium (10 to 11") saute pan over medium heat. Add the kielbasa and saute for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the kielbasa is browned. Serve the soup hot with the kielbasa and parsley sprinkled on top.