It snowed last night in St. Paul — October 10 is early even for Minnesota. It’s odd that I connect the first snow and the first pot of pea soup — I grew up in the Washington DC suburbs, and the season’s first snow was not particularly predictable. Perhaps this is a fantasy memory…
In any event — my Mother’s Spit Pea Soup was wonderful. She vaguely followed the directions on the bag of split peas, and, when we added Hebrew National Hot Dogs at the end — it was heaven in a bowl. I also loved to mix leftover pea soup with Campbell’s Tomato Soup to make our version of Puree Mongole (from the back of the long-ago soup cans, and, apparently no longer claimed by Campbell).
My pea soup recipe slightly less vague than my Mother’s, and it has more ingredients, included dried and frozen peas, and roasted, peeled and seeded jalapeno peppers. It is a very thick pea soup — not a broth. You — on the other hand — can put anything you want into your pea soup.
MY PEA SOUP
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 pound beef short ribs
1/2 cup cut up Kosher hot dogs or beef summer sausage (small dice)
2 cups onions, roughly chopped (3/4 inch pieces)
2 cups carrots, roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 pound dried split peas (rinsed and picked over for pebbles — you never know)
1 pound frozen tiny peas
6 to 8 cups of hot water
1 tsp good quality garlic powder
2 roasted, peeled and seeded jalapeno peppers (optional)
salt and pepper
1. In a large soup or stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Brown the short ribs on all sides. Don’t hurry this — go for the caramelization that makes good flavor. Add the hot dog or sausage pieces when the short ribs are almost all browned.
2. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally for 3 to 5 minutes. You are looking for some color, not completely browned onions.
3. Add the carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 3 to 5 minutes to get some brown color onto the carrots (that’s where the flavor is.)
4. Add the dried and frozen peas and hot water. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer and cook, partially covered for about 20 minutes.
5. Skim the scum that will float to the top. Really. Get rid of the gunk.
6. Add the garlic powder. Taste the soup before you add salt and pepper. The hot dog or sausage gives the soup a salty and smokey flavor, but you may want to be more generous with salt that you would otherwise expect. Continue to cook partially covered on very low heat for another hour or until the dried peas are soft. Stir occasionally. Add more water if it begins to stick.
7. Before serving, pull out the short ribs — or what’s left of them. Dice the meat and return to the pot; discard the bones. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
1. This really tastes better on the second day.
2. Grill or broil hot dogs and cut them into bite sized pieces before serving.
3. Apparently, Puree Mongole was J. Edgar Hoover’s favorite soup.
4. Now that Nathan’s Hot Dogs are widely available, I wouldn’t hesitate to put them into my soup, especially because my parents grew up near Coney Island.
5. You can freeze pea soup.
6. A note about garlic powder: that odorless, powdery stuff at the back of your pantry is not “good quality garlic powder.” My favorite source: Penzeys.