Saturday, November 21, 2015

Carolers' Warm-up

Lately my kitchen has been a hub of activity. Between planning for Thanksgiving, baking for my granddaughter's first birthday party and keeping my family fed, I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen. We are having house guests next week and I wanted to have some go-to meals in the fridge that I can rely on for nights at home. Last Sunday I made a big pot of Smoky Split Pea and Root Vegetable Soup. We had it for dinner a couple of nights and I put the rest in the freezer to have on hand for later. Soups freeze so well.

This recipe is very special. I found it years ago in the "Bon Appetit Christmas" book. It was the main course for a party called "Carolers Warm-Up." The idea of Christmas carolers stopping by to sing and then being invited in for soup and hot spiced wine sounded delightful. There was something so quaint about this idea, right out of Currier and Ives. I used to go caroling as a child and remember being offered cookies and hot chocolate. If you grew up in a cold climate on the east coast, you may have done the same. Trudging through deep snow all bundled up and singing with your friends seems like a long-ago tradition. When I first discovered the "Carolers' Warm-up" menu in my Bon Appetit book, I made the whole thing for a tree-decorating party. I served it with cheddar-dill scones and a big salad. Of course everyone got a mug of hot spiced wine. Dessert was gingerbread. 

I have been making this soup ever since and it has become a family favorite. Carrots, parsnips, leeks, onion, bay leaves, marjoram and thyme cook together slowly in melted butter over low heat. Once this mixture is tender, chicken stock, split peas and smoked ham hocks are added. I couldn't find ham hocks so I used a smoked turkey leg and thigh that I bought at Whole Foods. I liked it even better this way. After the mixture simmers for 45 minutes, you take the turkey meat off the bone and cut it into small pieces, adding it to the soup. This gives it incredible flavor. And nothing tastes better on a cold winter night.

Smoky Split Pea and Root Vegetable Soup

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 large parsnips, chopped
2 medium leeks (white and light green parts), chopped
1 large onion
2 and 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
2 bay leaves
11 cups low-salt chicken broth
3 cups split peas
1 and 1/4 pounds smoked ham hocks
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Melt butter in a heavy large pot over low heat. Add carrots, parsnips, leeks, onion, thyme marjoram and bay leaves. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add stock, peas and ham hocks. Bring to simmer, cover partially and cook until peas and tender and soup thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. Remove ham hocks and cut meat into small pieces. Discard bone and fat. Return meat to the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Add parsley and serve.

Speaking of nostalgic cooking, did your mother use this when she made her pumpkin pies? I haven't seen pumpkin pie spice forever until the other day when I found it at Bristol Farms. I bought it in honor of my mother.

Happy cooking!


  1. You read my mind. It's a big cooking week for me coming up. And I love it so! xx

  2. This soup sounds so good....I want some right now!

  3. Your soup sounds (and looks) so delcious! I've never made a soup that 'turned out', but this one looks really simple and fail proof. I have a bottle of the pumpkin pie spice in my cupboard right now! I think I made a recipe last year that called for it. Enjoy your cozy weekend!

  4. I have been looking for the perfect Split Pea Soup recipe... think I've finally found it! Thanks :)

  5. The soup looks great, as you know I love making soup and we often have it for dinner. I think the switch to smoked turkey was brilliant. Big cooking week ahead of me as well, and starting off at our local farmer's market this morning. I think my mother did use that pumpkin pie spice mix as well.

  6. I know what I'm making today! The soup sounds delicious, thanks for the recipe.

  7. This looks delicious! We need to bring back caroling. Your kitchen is gorgeous.