From America's Test Kitchen Season 12: Cold-Weather Comfort
We wanted a spoon-coating, richly flavorful broth studded with tender shreds of sweet-smoky meat, all without requiring the old-fashioned ham bone traditionally used to infuse the soup with flavor. Substituting ham hocks made the soup greasy and was skimpy on the meat. Ham steak, however, was plenty meaty and infused the soup with a fuller pork flavor. Without the bone, our soup needed richness and smokiness, and adding a few strips of raw bacon to the pot did the job. Unsoaked peas broke down just as well as soaked and were better at absorbing the flavor of the soup.
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?Watch the Video
Serves 6 to 8
Four ounces of regular sliced bacon can be used, but the thinner slices are a little harder to remove from the soup. Depending on the age and brand of split peas, the consistency of the soup may vary slightly. If the soup is too thin at the end of step 3, increase the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the desired consistency is reached. If it is too thick, thin it with a little water. Serve the soup sprinkled with Buttery Croutons (related), fresh peas, and chopped mint and drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar. The soup can be made up to 3 days in advance. If necessary, thin it with water when reheating.