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Dec 24, 2013
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WINE WITH…Split Pea Soup & Parmesan-Black Pepper Crisps

Simple soups, savory salads--that’s the kind of food we’ll want as a counterpoint to all the rich, caloric holiday feasting we’ve been indulging in lately. But this doesn’t mean that we have to settle for bland, boring dishes. On the contrary, we’ll still infuse our meals with flavor and texture, and while the wine won’t flow as generously as it did at the height of the holidays, we’ll still savor a glass with dinner every night. Okay, maybe a couple of glasses.

Split pea soup makes a terrific one-dish post-holiday meal. It’s warming, nourishing and tasty. It can be made well ahead of time and stored in the fridge or freezer. It’s also a nice way to make use of any ham or pork scraps or meaty bones that might be left over from holiday feasting. And it can be surprisingly good with wine.

We’ve embellished our basic soup with cheesy crisps from our friend Joanna Pruess’ book Soup for Every Body. Of course you don’t have to include this crispy, spicy garnish if you are really trying to simplify your life and pare down your caloric intake, but the crisps do add vibrant taste and brittle crunchiness. The meat is also optional if you want a completely vegetarian dish (but note that a ham bone does add luscious texture as well as superb flavor).

Split Pea Soup

Serves 6

As with most soups, this one is at its best if made the day before serving. We purée the soup before adding the ham since we like the velvety texture this process yields, but the soup will be every bit as delicious if you skip this step and just let the peas cook until they are completely broken down (if you are doing it this way, add the meats when the peas go into the pot).

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 pound split peas

5 cups water

4 cups chicken stock (or water)

salt and pepper

crushed red pepper flakes to taste

1 teaspoon thyme

1 bay leaf

1 chunk cooked ham or pork, ham hock, or other ham bone

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onion, carrot and celery stalk. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook another couple of minutes. Add the peas, water and chicken stock, and season with salt and pepper, red pepper flakes and thyme. Simmer until peas are tender. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until it is thick and fairly smooth (or purée in batches in a blender or food processor). Refrigerate until ready to reheat and serve. But if you are including ham or pork in the recipe, return the soup to the pan and add the bay leaf and meat. Simmer, covered, another 1½ hours. If using a ham bone, remove it and, when cool enough to handle, pick out all the meat and add it to the soup, discarding the bone.

Parmesan–Black Pepper Crisps

Adapted from Soup for Every Body by Joanna Pruess.

8 tablespoons freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

¼ to ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Combine the cheese and black pepper in a bowl. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. For each crisp, spread about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture into a circle in the pan (it should be thin). Be sure to leave 2 inches or so between the circles. Cook until the cheese melts and the edges begin to brown. Remove with a spatula and cool on a cake rack.

* * *

We were unsure what sort of wines would pair well with this hearty soup, so opened a large and quite diverse selection--reds, whites, and rosés, oak-laden bruisers, lithe beauties, and everything in between. Our conclusions? The dish needs a wine with some heft, as it is deeply-flavored on its own. Some whites, especially those with evidence of barrel aging work well with it, but reds tend to do better. Those reds, though, cannot be too heavy for fear of trying to steal the gastronomic show. Look for medium-weight wines, preferably those with dusty or earthy secondary flavors, which in turn will mesh nicely with the meaty soup.

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Edna Valley, Central Coast (California) Chardonnay “Paragon” 2011

$15

An exemplary California Chardonnay, showing the richness that comes from the judicious use of oak without any of the heavy, charred flavor that results from its overuse. This was a beautiful because both rich and refreshing match for the soup and cheese crisps.

Kenwood, California (USA) “Vintage White” 2011

$9

A blend of primarily Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, this wine tastes slightly off-dry. Its hint of sweetness, particularly in the finish, provided a good counterpoint to the salty taste of the meat in the soup, as well as to the pepper in the crisps. For a mere $9 a bottle, we found it hard to ask for more.

Laurent Miquel, Saint-Chinian (France) “L’Artisan” 2010

(Imported by Miquel et Fils)

$17

The most substantial red we are recommending, this blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache from the Languedoc region of southern France has a smoky character that proved enticingly evocative when paired with the meaty soup.

Parducci, Mendocino County (California) Pinot Noir “Small Lot Blend” 2010

$12

Lightly-colored, with an earthy edge that tempers its sweet, cherry-like fruit, this Pinot succeeds where many wines costing four or five times as much fail. It’s complete and complex, and made for a fantastic soup companion.

Tormentino, Paarl (South Africa) Mourvèdre 2012

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)

$13

Another red with secondary flavors that echo smoke and earth, this Rhone-styled beauty is neither too heavy nor too light for successful supper pairings. Its red fruit flavors gave the soup a lift, while those secondary notes complemented the dish’s depth.