field pea soup

Y’all, today’s high is 73. Seventy-three. I think people around the world are saying, “Argh, curse you South Carolina!” as they put on their coats and go to work in the nine degree weather. I have to say that I envy you a little. I’m a wintery, bundle-up, build a fire girl at heart. There’s something about winter’s silence that is beautiful to me, snow gently placing itself on the trees, forcing you to bundle up and make one pot meals that you can eat while your hands and arms are still wrapped in a fleece blanket. Man! That sounds so glorious. That’s it. I’m making some soup.

The last time I was at the farmers’ market I bought a bag of dried peas from a lovely family who does their own organic farming. They were really sweet, knew everything about each veggie and how to prepare it. I even had to go back because I thought I had lost my phone (my goodness, you’d think it were a child) and they helped me follow my tracks around the market. Anyway, they were just good faces to put with the food I’d be bringing home with me. Nice people stories!

They recommended boiling the peas with a ham hock, but I’m a lame southerner and didn’t have one, so for my recipe I used, you guessed it, bacon. This hearty soup is also filled with potatoes, carrots, and, most importantly, those pretty little peas.

field pea soup
3 strips minimally processed bacon
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a sprinkle of cayenne
3 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups dried field peas, soaked overnight, rinsed, and drained
2 yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut into cubes
touch of cream

Soak the peas in a bowl of water overnight (this creates a shorter cooking time) and rinse well. Set aside.
In a large Dutch oven on medium heat, add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove bacon and allow to dry on paper towels. Chop into small pieces when cool enough to handle.
To the Dutch oven (which still holds the bacon grease) add the butter and melt. Add the onion, celery, and carrots and cook until onions are translucent and vegetables are soft. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne and cook for a minute longer. Sprinkle the flour in and stir constantly for a minute longer or until the flour is cooked, turning a blonde color. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the peas and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 and 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Add the potatoes and reserved chopped bacon and simmer for 30 minutes longer until the potatoes are tender. You may need to cook longer (or shorter) depending on how soft you like your peas. Just before serving, stir in the cream. I think I used about 1/8 of a cup, just to make it a little richer.

Just so you know, I’m not complaining about our strange, unpredictable, “I’ll do what I want” weather. If God wants it like that, well, He is certainly better than I am. And I really do consider it a blessing to be raised in the good ol’ sunny south. Butttt…if we can fool that 73 into thinking he’s seven below because this soup is just so doggone cold-weather, wintry picturesque, well…then that’s just the bee’s knees.

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