Published January 1, 2011.
Simmering a leftover ham shank used to be a frugal way to stretch a meal. But what if you have to make do without the backbone of this soup?
Split-pea soup, once a popular use for leftover roast ham, has never amounted to anything greater than the sum of its parts. Too often it turns into an overly thick, sludgy green mash with one-note flavor.
A spoon-coating, richly flavorful broth studded with tender shreds of sweet-smoky meat.
We wanted a recipe we could use anytime, not only the day after a roast-ham dinner, so we had to find a replacement for the traditional hambone. We decided on ham steak. After quartering the slab and letting it simmer in the broth (a classic base of water fortified with sautéed onion and garlic, carrots and celery, bay leaves, and thyme), the liquid had taken on significantly fuller pork flavor, and the ham itself was tender enough to pull into meaty shreds with a pair of forks. For richness and smokiness, we added raw bacon to the soup along with the ham steak. The bacon offered subtler flavor, and the slices could be fished out right before serving.
As for the main ingredient, we found that unsoaked peas break down just as readily as soaked peas, and even result in a soup that is more flavorful since they absorb the pork-enriched broth.
All that was left to do was work up a few garnishes. A handful of fresh peas, chopped mint leaves, and a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar added freshness and sweetness, and punched up the flavors of the soup. Finally, gently fried croutons floated on top were the perfect finishing touch to this updated classic.list of recipes