San Francisco may be famous for its fog, but locally, Daly City and Pacifica are thought to have SF beat. Of course, in the fall, all bets are off as we head into our most summery time of the year. For the last 25+ years, Pacifica has embraced its fogginess with the Pacific Coast Fog Festival, complete with arts and crafts, live music, and even a parade spotlighting rust adorned jalopies. And several years back, they added a cooking competition for … (drum roll please) … split pea soup. Presented here today is the winner of the inaugural event. This was my first cook-off, and little did they know, split pea is the one soup I had pretty much perfected. It was time to see whether it could stand up to competition, and it did.
Oh,and for the record, Fog Fest weekend normally looks like this (as taken from my deck in Pacifica one not-so-foggy FogFest weekend):
Despite the cutesy phrase “Where in the fog is Pacifica?” — one of the best kept secrets is that Pacifica isn’t nearly as foggy as people think.
In any event, I submitted my recipe to the local paper, then after reviewing the submissions, the food columnist who shall remain nameless picked finalists to prepare their dishes for a panel of judges. It really was a lot of fun, and I took great pride in watching the judges going back to my bowl over and over, whispering, nodding, and then when they announced the winner, raving. Just like cook-offs and bake-offs across the country, I savored the moment and couldn’t wait to defend my title the next year!
Unfortunately small town politics prevented THAT from happening. True story. Although I continued to submit my recipe in subsequent years, hoping to defend my original title, after reviewing all the submissions, I would get a call from the paper telling me that they hadn’t received any quality submissions, so it wouldn’t be “fair” to allow me to participate again so soon. How silly! Eventually, I told them to bugger off.
Then one year they decided to retire the competition and announced I would be participating in a final contest among the prior years’ winners. OK I’ll be a good sport and play along. Ultimately, though, I didn’t attend, and it all came down to the obviously controversial … wait for it … “gouda crostini.” Yep, on the eve of the competition (we’re talking after 9pm!), the food columnist called me to discuss eliminating the gouda crostini from my recipe. You see, it gave me a slight edge, and it wouldn’t be “fair” to the others who hadn’t thought to include a crouton of some sort. Just so we’re clear, I was competing against restauranteurs, caterers, and other professionals in the food industry, yet a crouton gave this home cook an “unfair” advantage! If ever something were so bad it’s funny, this would be it.
And that, my friends, is the infamous pea soup scandal; possibly the most ridiculous series of events in a cooking competition. Ever. At least they left me with a funny story to tell.
But now on to more important things, such as this soup!
Look at all these beautiful, fresh ingredients. This week my butcher hooked me up with these fabulous smoked ham shanks. I can’t imagine going back to ham hocks after this.
Most pea soups start with water. I use chicken broth. Trust me, it’s for the best, but make sure you use the low or no sodium variety, or the overall saltiness can get out of hand. Bring this to a boil, add the carrots, split peas and ham shanks, then lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Fish out the carrots before proceeding (they were just in there to lend some sweetness).
While the split peas and ham hocks are simmering, chop up the salt pork, and sauté in a large non-stick skillet until crispy brown.
Meanwhile, slice up the onions and celery.
Once the salt pork is crisped up, add the onions and celery to the pan, and sauté until the onions start to brown.
Add the onion/salt pork mixture to the broth, along with the fresh parsley and dried herbs. Give it a good stir, cover, and simmer for 2 hours.
After the soup has simmered for 2 hours, remove the ham shanks. The meat should be falling from the bone. Chop it up, and stir it back into the soup, along with 3/4 cup shredded gouda, and a cup of frozen petite peas (optional, for a sweet contrast). Simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice up the baguette and spread out the slices on a cookie sheet. Broil until golden on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.
Take a garlic clove and rub it on the browned side, then return the slices to the cookie sheet browned side down. Top each piece with about 1-2 teaspoons of shredded gouda, then return to the broiler until golden brown and bubbly.
Because of the garlic rubbed on the bottom of the crostini, when you place it in your bowl, the flavor of the garlic will be released into the soup. See, there’s a method to my madness.
Enjoy! (PS, my vegetarian split pea soup is quite delicious too.)
- 2 ½ quarts low-sodium or unsalted chicken stock
- 4 carrots, cut in half
- 1 lb dried split green peas, rinsed & drained
- 1½ lb smoked ham shanks (or ham hocks)
- ¼ lb salt pork, cubed
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 2 medium onions, halved and sliced thinly
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 2 sprigs parsley, chopped
- ¼ tsp dried rosemary
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- ¾ cup shredded gouda
- 1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed (optional)
- 1 sourdough baguette
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup shredded gouda
- In a large stockpot, bring chicken stock to a boil and add carrots, split peas and ham shanks. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes, covered. Remove and discard carrots.
- While peas are simmering, in a large skillet, sauté salt pork until crisp. Add celery, onion, and green onion, cooking until onion is golden.
- To the peas and shanks, add the sautéed salt pork mixture, parsley, rosemary, pepper, and bay leaf. Mix well. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours, covered. Remove from heat.
- Remove shanks from pot and cool. Chop meat, and add meat to pot along with the ¾ cup gouda and petite peas, if using. If soup seems too thick at this point, stir in a little water. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for another 30 minutes, covered.
- While soup is finishing, make the crostini.
- Preheat your oven to broil. Slice baguette into ½ inch slices on the diagonal. Arrange bread slices on a non-stick baking sheet and broil until they just start to turn golden. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes.
- Rub garlic on browned side and turn over. Place enough gouda on untoasted side to cover – about 1-2 teaspoons. Return to broiler and cook until cheese is bubbly and golden. Set aside.
- Serve soup immediately with crostini as a garnish.
Next week stop by for some Drunken Pumpkin Bread.