Every year I make some sort of soup using the ham hock from Christmas dinner. I happened to have a very large bag of split peas, which I like because you don’t have to soak them overnight. Serve it with a loaf of crusty bread and a salad. You can just use chopped up ham, if you do not have a ham hock on hand.
Ham and Split Pea Soup
1 lb split peas
1 ham hock
3 Tbs unsalted butter
1 cup finely yellow onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 lb ham, chopped
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 tsp fresh thyme
croutons and parsley or chives, optional, as garnish
Pick over the peas and remove any stones. Wash and drain peas.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the celery and carrots and cook, stirring, until just soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
Add the ham hock and ham and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown. Add the drained peas, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes, and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add 8 cups of water, the bay leaf and thyme, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender, about 1½ hours or until peas are tender. (Add more water as needed, if the soup becomes too thick or dry.)
Remove the ham hock and bay leaf from the soup and discard.
Purée about 2 cups of the soup with a blender. An immersion blender works great for this. Return the purée to the rest of the soup and heat to serve. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into warm bowls and garnish with croutons and parsley or chives.