Spanish Pea Soup with Crispy Ham

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It’s the second week of January, and a lot of us are still in the holiday comedown. New Year’s Eve comes around and suddenly you’re waking up at noon on the first day of the year and the holidays are officially done. Just like that. But for me, this shift always seems so abrupt.

My Christmas wreath is still on my front door, though I admit this is probably the week to finally take it down. Even my neighbor who starts bedazzling his back patio for Halloween on the 1st, even he’s moved on. Yesterday he was putting up pink balloons for what I imagine was a little girl’s birthday party.

So the new year is here. We’re in it. Honestly, I’m looking forward to it. I turned 13 on a Friday the 13th, so I think 2013 could be my year.

With my planner finally picked out, I was ready to make the first soup of the year. This pea soup with crispy ham was just the thing. It’s bright, simple, and as foolproof as Ina promises. Don’t underestimate how good it will be just because it comes together so quickly. A big slice of crispy prosciutto in the middle of each bowl of electric green instantly makes this soup impressive, and the crispy ham tastes like bacon. Pig and peas (and legumes) always play well together.

What makes this pea soup so perfect for this time of year is that it’s hot and comforting, but it’s also green and nourishing at a time when you may miss summer produce. If it’s truly cold where you are, I bet this will taste even better. You’ll think it’s spring.

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spanish pea soup with crispy ham

This is an incredibly simple and quick soup, but it is still flavorful and delicious. Bright green is a welcome color on your plate, especially at the beginning of the year, and this soup makes a lovely first course or light lunch with a salad.

extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots (2 large shallots)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 or 4 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock
2 pounds frozen peas
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 thin slices of Spanish Serrano ham or Italian prosciutto

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan (I used my Dutch oven, Ina recommends something 8 x 5-inch). Stir in the shallots and saute until tender and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the chicken stock, frozen peas, salt, and pepper, and bring it all to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Puree the soup with an immersion blender until it is blended but maintains a coarse texture. Taste the soup and season accordingly with up to another teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Meanwhile, spread out the ham on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Keep in mind they will continue to cook and crisp up a bit after you pull them from the oven.

Ladle soup into bowls and serve with a piece of crispy ham in the center of each bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately. Soup will keep in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for a few months, but the ham should be cooked just before serving.

Serves 6. Recipe from “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust” by Ina Garten.

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