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Ham and Split Pea Soup
serves 6

Use an entire small 2 1/2-pound smoked picnic portion ham if you can find one. Otherwise, buy a half-picnic ham and remove some meat (see illustrations on page 22), which you can roast and use in sandwiches, salads, or omelets.

1 piece (about 2 ½ pounds) smoked, bone-in
picnic ham
4 bay leaves
1 pound (2 ½ cups) split peas, rinsed and picked through
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped medium
2 medium carrots, chopped medium
2 medium stalks celery, chopped medium
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2
Pinch sugar
3 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into
½-inch dice (about ¾ cup)
Ground black pepper
Minced red onion (optional)
Balsamic vinegar

1. Place ham, bay leaves, and 3 quarts water in large stockpot or Dutch oven. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until meat is tender and pulls away from bone, 2 to 2 ½ hours. Remove ham meat and bone from pot and set aside.

2. Add split peas and thyme to stock. Bring back to boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, until peas are tender but not dissolved, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, when ham is cool enough to handle, shred meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Discard rind and bone.

3. While split peas are simmering, heat oil in large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté, stirring frequently, until most of liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add butter, garlic, and sugar. Cook vegetables, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, 30 to 35 minutes; set aside.

4. Add sautéed vegetables, potatoes, and shredded ham to pot with split peas. Simmer until potatoes are tender and peas dissolve and thicken soup to consistency of light cream, about 20 minutes more. Season with pepper to taste. (The soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 days. Warm soup over low heat until hot.) Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with red onion, if using, and serve, passing balsamic vinegar separately.

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