Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Whisk Wednesdays—Potage Ambassadeur (Split Pea Soup with Bacon, Sorrel, and Lettuce)

Potage Ambassadeur (Split Pea Soup with Bacon, Sorrel, and Lettuce)Even though I live across the river from French Canada where pea soup (soupe aux pois) is a national dish, I've never ordered pea soup in a restaurant or tasted split peas before, so I wasn't too thrilled to make this soup, and neither was my family in Saskatchewan! My sister suggested I make it when I return to Ottawa, but she wasn't so lucky with the Whisk Wednesdays' schedule. The kids passed on having a bowl, but the others bravely accepted a small bowl of this funny-colored soup. We were all pleasantly surprised. In fact, my sister declared it the best split pea soup she's ever tasted!

"Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old."
Nursery Rhyme
According to Wise Geek, pease porridge is what we call split pea soup today.

Split Peas

Green and yellow split peas
"This is a natural product of the earth."
– from the bag of split peas
Peas are an ancient vegetable, mentioned in the Bible and prized by the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Apicius, who was one of the first cookbook authors in the 4th or 5th century has nine recipes for cooking Ospreos (peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas).

Peas belong to the legume family, like beans and lentils, but they are spherical. A common name for this type of fruit is a "pod". Certain varieties are grown specifically for drying. When the yellow or green peapods are fully mature, they're harvested and dried in the pod. The skin around the pea dries and falls off, and they split naturally (like a peanut). After peas have been dried, they can survive the long, cold winter months. When puréed, they are a natural thickening agent in soups and stews.
National Split Pea Soup Week is celebrated in the United States
at the beginning of November each year.
USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council
After soaking the split peas overnight {although some websites suggest split peas don't need to be soaked overnight}, I tasted both the green and yellow ones and enjoyed their taste. The green ones were milder than the yellow ones, which had a more earthy flavor.

Then, I cooked the vegetables (carrot, onion, leek, and garlic) in some butter along with the bacon. After the vegetables were soft and translucent, I added the drained split peas and chicken stock. I brought the mixture to a boil, reduced the heat, and added the bouquet garni and let the flavors blend for about 40 minutes.

In a separate pot, I made a small batch of rice. I used basmati, since that's all we had in the pantry, but the recipe calls for short-grain rice. {I actually had to make it twice since the first time I added too much salt!} The rice gives this puréed soup a bit of texture.

Next, I puréed the soup in the blender. {Why did I so carefully cut the vegetables into a fine dice?! I guess "chopped fine" is different from "fine dice".} Then, I added the cream and brought the temperature of the soup back up. {I added some extra whole milk to make the soup more soupy and less thick.}

The soup calls for a garnish of wilted sorrel and lettuce. I couldn't find sorrel anywhere, so, after looking it up online, decided to substitute baby spinach. I wilted both in some butter before serving the soup in a tortilla bowl.

Accidental Hedonist has an interesting blurb about the history behind the nursery rhyme and The Old Foodie has some insight into pease porridge that I found interesting. As well, you can watch a video on how to make French Canadian Pea Soup.

"Mess of Pottage"
The curriculum that I'm following called for Potage Esau, which is a very old soup that's mentioned in the Bible. It's in the story of Jacob and Esau, twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. Although the boys were twins, Esau was the first-born. One day, when the boys were young, Esau returned from hunting very hungry. Jacob seized this opportunity and offered to give his brother some lentil soup if Esau would, in exchange, give up his birthright. Esau, faint with hunger, agreed and the deal was made. (Genesis 25:29-34)

"Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright."
King James Bible
Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook didn't contain a recipe for Potage Esau (lentil soup), so I substituted a split pea soup instead since split peas are in the same family as lentils.

Mise en place for Potage Ambassadeur (Split Pea Soup with Bacon, Sorrel, and Lettuce)You can find the recipe for Potage Ambassadeur (Split Pea Soup with Bacon, Sorrel, and Lettuce) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home or here. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with this week's recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Tasting Notes
This soup has a smooth, mild gentle flavor with a hint of a smoky bacon taste. Delicious {even though the color of the soup is unappealing}! Next time, I would like to add more ham or bacon or even some curry for extra flavor. I also used half green and half yellow split peas and wonder if using just green split peas would be more flavorful.
I eat my peas with honey
I've done it all my life
It makes the peas taste funny
But it keeps them on the knife!
- Anonymous
I think I'll stick with fresh peas from the pod. That's still my favorite way to eat peas. However, I intend to try a taste test of fresh pea soup versus split pea soup, so stay tuned…

Update: Split Pea versus Fresh Pea Soup

Fresh Peas and Pea SoupToday I made both versions of this soup: one using split peas (only the green kind) and one using fresh peas. I preferred the taste of the soup made with fresh peas. It had a smoother, mellow taste. The one made with split peas had a more starchy, grainy, but brighter taste. My husband liked the split pea version, and I liked the fresh pea version, but we both agreed that they needed more ham or bacon flavor!

Fresh Pea Soup
Soup Summary
This is the last in a series of soups. We've covered

• chunky vegetable soup (Potage cultivateur/Cut vegetable soup)
• puréed fresh vegetable soup (Julienne Darblay/Creamed Leek and Potato Soup with Julienned Vegetables)
• soup made with a liaison of cream and egg yolks (Velouté Agnès Sorel/Cream of Chicken Soup)
• shellfish bisque (Bisque de Homard/Lobster Bisque)
• cold consommé (Consommé Madrilène/Chilled Consommé with Red Peppers and Tomatoes)
• two regional soups (Billy Bi/Mussel Soup and Soupe à l'oignon gratinée/Onion soup)
• puréed soup of dried vegetables

I'm ready for an entrée now!

Next Week (August 27)
• Steak Mirabeau (Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Anchovy Butter) page 426-427

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $639.39 + $21.11 (chicken stock) + $8.88 = $669.38

Butter used so far: 7 pounds, 1 tablespoon


NKP said...

I love all the background info you give on the recipes and ingredients.
Your soup looks great in what looks like a tortilla bowl(?)
My husband is looking forward to the entrees too!

Leslie said...

The more bacon or even ham the better in Split Pea soup!
This is one of my all time favorite soups! I suppose I should try to make it someday!

Anonymous said...

I love your photography. You obviously shot this outside as I can see the reflection of the sky in the spoon. Beautiful job on the photo and a very interesting post.

Anonymous said...

soup sounds sooo good right now! thanks for the comment about the lasagna! [and the congrats on the yummy blog award] as always, lovely pictures...hope you are doing well! have a great week!

Anonymous said...

Shari, thank you for the award! Your soup looks delicious! I like the idea of adding curry to it for next time...

Anonymous said...

mSo excited for the entrees! Thanks again for the background, I love your posts! They are so informative!

michael, claudia and sierra said...

great post as usual
blah blah blah
you're wonderful and amazing

my grandma made the best green split pea soup - your spoon could stand up in it. she used beef flanken (short ribs) and man o man... those were the days...

Anonymous said...

That was my favorite rhyme as a kid! I never knew that it was split pea soup though. I always thought it was pea's porridge. Who knew?!

Jessica Eiden Smedley said...

Shari - I had to stop and stare at the picture with the nursery rhyme. That same print was in an old Mother Goose book I had as a child!

This soup was delicious; I ended up making extra.

Michelle said...

As always your presentation is gorgeous!!! The soup looks so good!