Getting Hot and Heavy: Simple Pea Cream Soup
By Trish Sebastian
Many people associate Salt Lake City, Utah with mormons, it being the headquarters of their religion, the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Geographically, Salt Lake City is mountainous and dry, sitting at an elevation of 4,200 feet (1,200 meters). It is located east of Nevada, or simply, two states to the left of California. Utah’s capital of Salt Lake City is famous for hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics, thus making it a popular destination for snow sports enthusiasts the world over. Salt Lake is also the gateway to Park City – both known for its marvelous skiing and as the venue of the Sundance Film Festival.
Filipinos are not known to be naturals in cold, snowy downhill slopes for obvious reasons, so I will be forthright in saying that I struggle with the sport. But it is such an electric feeling, skiing. Imagine gliding rapidly downhill on your feet, white hills and pine trees zipping by, a soft powdery carpet of snow under your skis, freezing wind whipping your already numbing face. It is tough to replicate. And so I persist. It was going to be my first time to ski in Park City. We were only there for the weekend and I couldn’t be more excited.
Except the night before of my big ski debut on the famed Olympic terrain, I got blindsided. By a promising vicious flu.
Oh, the irony.
I slept in under layers of heavy blankets most of the day. It was about three in the afternoon when I decided I have had it. I got up and called for dinner reservations at the first appetizing place my Google search returned.
Absent of any remarkable skiing (or any skiing at all), my only lucid memory of Salt Lake is the splendid dinner at this place called “The Copper Onion”. It’s a casual restaurant serving American cuisine using locally sourced meats and produce (when available). Their made-from-scratch, rich split pea soup with crème fraiche coaxed me back from the spirals of indisposition-slash-misery. Their perfectly cooked tender wagyu stroganoff seduced my slumbering taste buds awake. Life felt suddenly chipper. Warmer.
As wet weather and somber skies descend upon Manila once again, we all cling to the comfort of the hot and hearty. Arroz caldo and sinigang are both so good, but why not cook something different, something out of your usual repertoire? If you’ve never tried making or having pea soup, as with any cooking venture, I can’t guarantee that it will be easy. But one thing I can assure you is that it will be fun.
Just like skiing.
So take off the jacket and shed the layers. Crank up some Dave Brubeck (don’t skip this part – I suggest Blue Rondo a la Turk and Take Five). Let’s make a hearty bowl of split pea soup.
You will need:
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
8 cups of water
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. peas (frozen is okay, unless you have time to shell and dry peas)
½ cup heavy cream (milk)
Chopped fresh chives for garnish
Optional: Diced cooked ham slices, about ½ cup to make the soup a bit more substantial. If you’re serving soup as a starter, you can skip this.
This should feed four. Feel free to reduce in half for fewer portions.
- In a deep pot, cook the carrot, celery and onions through in olive oil in medium heat. Go ahead and partially cover the pot.
- When the onions are transparent and the carrots and celery have softened, chuck the peas in with the bay leaf and the half of the ham (if using). Add the water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer for however long it takes to soften the peas. Usually about 30 minutes. This is the time for you to fold the laundry or clean the kitchen or start dessert.
- When the peas have softened (i.e. not gritty anymore), remove from heat and ladle soup into blender. Liquefy ladle by ladle so you don’t mess up the kitchen.
- Carefully pour the soup mixture back to the pot and bring to heat. Gently add the heavy cream. I’m not much of a milk person and if you aren’t either, I suggest adding a bit a time and tasting until you get the perfect consistency and taste that suits you. Otherwise, add all ½ of it or add as much as 1 cup if that is your preference. Heat up soup. You’re almost done! (Tip: I like serving warm dishes on warm plates. You can set your soup bowl on top of the simmering soup to warm it up, or put a plate on top of the pot and set your bowl on top of the plate. Otherwise, fine. Nuke the bowl in the microwave for about 20 seconds.)
- On a separate burner, lightly drizzle a small pan with olive oil and prep your baguette slices a la Erwan Heussaf. Meaning salt just a tad – less than a pinch – and gently lay your bread slices until it soaks up the olive oil. Turn a couple of times. You’re not making croutons so watch that you don’t toast the bread.
- Ladle soup in a bowl, top with the rest of your ham slices and garnish with fresh chopped chives. Serve with warm bread and a huge proud smile. Easy peasy!
If you make it to Park City for either skiing or to attend the Sundance Film Festival, Copper Onion is located at 111 E. Broadway, Salt Lake City, UT 84111; website: www.thecopperonion.com