Thursday, January 1, 2009

Resolutions vs. Blessings

Like most of us, as this New Year begins we all make our New Years Resolutions, and by January 31, most of us have already fallen back to our old ways. This year, I thought about resolving not to make any resolutions, and try something else. I think that this year, I would like to reflect and count my blessings.

I have been very lucky throughout my life. I am married to Marc, the same man that I have loved for over 30 years, and he still loves me - a miracle in today's world. I have four wonderful children; Jeffrey who is a resident in plastic surgery at Johns Hopkins, Steven, an attorney who just graduated from law school, David, a medical student who is graduating in May and wants to be an orthopedist, and Lauren, my baby, who at 23, is the slot analyst for the Wynn Hotel group and who does all the analysis for the slot floors of both the Wynn and their new property Encore, has the decision making responsibility to choose the slots, their placement on the floors, and analyze their performance, not bad for a 23 year old.

I am surrounded by wonderful family members, a mother-in-law who I love, my dear Aunt Fifi, the last of all the Aunts and Uncles on my side, brothers, sister-in-law, nieces, nephews, Uncles, and Aunts, cousins, even grandnieces and grandnephews, and even an adopted "grandson" who I couldn't love more if he was my own blood (Edin that's you) and the most wonderful group of friends you could ever want to meet (Rae, Steve, Fran, Norm, Jeane, Camille, Rene, Eileen, Anthony, Johann, Bernie, Maria, Tim, Stuart, Jasminka and Haris, Loraine, George, Melissa, Anne, all their families, and so many other that I wouldn't have the storage space on this blog to list.

I think that sometimes, we take for granted what we have, and don't realize how lucky we are. There are some people who have such tragedy in their lives. So today, I just want to say thank you for the blessings I have been given. I wish there was a way to let the people who are no longer here, to let them know that I try very hard to live the way they taught me, (to cherish family and friends above everything, live a moral and caring life, do unto others no matter what they do to you, cherish your traditions, and believe in God) and instill those values in my children, and hopefully, they will instill them in their children.

I guess this morning I was treated to a dose of those values and traditions, when the phone rang this morning and it was my son David - "Hey Mom, you making pea soup?" "No David, it's just Dad and I today, who's going to eat it?" I walked in to the kitchen and Marc says to me, "Aren't you making pea soup, it's New Years Day?" What's a mother to do, I head to the grocery store in the hopes I can find a smoked ham hock, and the phone rings, and it's Jeffrey "Making pea soup?" My very dear friend Barbara, who passed away this past year would have been very disappointed in me, as she always waited for her container of soup...a day for memories as well. She and my Aunt Edith must have been in cahoots up there, and they needed to be heard.

I heard. I listened. I guess I am making pea soup. My Aunt Edith would have been very upset with me and I guess she was sending me a message, you can't say you're going to do it, if you don't do it.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa...

I have learned my lesson, you don't toy with tradition, even if no one is around, and I guess you freeze the pea soup until they come home, I'll even have to cut down that damn eggnog recipe and make a glass or two for tonight!

Elise Feiner

4-5 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 bags (1 pound) dried green peas
1 bag (32 ounces) baby carrots
4 large Idaho potatoes, peeled, cut in small cubes or 16 red tiny new potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 pint heavy cream
2 bay leaves
3 smoked ham hocks or bone from a spiral ham
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ pound boiled ham cut in ¼-inch thick slices (I like Boar's Head® Baby Ham) cut in small cubes, or leftover spiral ham
1 bag frozen chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½ teaspoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon thyme
1 (13¾ or 14 ounce) can chicken broth

Place the oil in a 16 quart stockpot and sauté the onions until soft and translucent; add potatoes and cook for about 5 to 8 minutes. Fill the pot with water and add all the remaining ingredients except for the heavy cream, and cubed ham. Keep flame on medium until it starts to boil. Then lower to a simmer and stir frequently. Simmer for about 3 hours. Remove the bay leaves and the ham hocks. Let the soup cool slightly and place into a blender in small batches (don not fill blender all the way or the heat will make it expand) and puree until smooth or use an immersion blender to puree it in the pot. Remove any ham from the hocks and add back to the pureed soup. Add the cubed ham pieces and the heavy cream to the soup. If you prefer the soup thicker, you can add a little flour that has been mixed with cold water, but remember the soup gets thicker as it stands. To make fresh croutons, take a loaf of Italian bread and cut it into cubes. In a very large frying pan, melt a stick of butter. Add garlic salt, and black pepper, and grating cheese. Toss in the cubes and stir frequently until golden brown. Serves 12 - 16. You can cut this recipe in half, but it freezes very well.

Here are the ingredients that you will need for the pea soup:

You will be using both smoked ham hocks and either 
a piece of ham or leftover ham. 
Today I used a ham steak (precooked)

As with all my recipes I always advise you to read through them once so you understand the directions and have all the prep work for your recipe done ahead.

When you open the bags of peas,
pour them into a dish and look for any heavily crusted white peas, or any stones ( this is rare today, but years ago it was very common to find small stones in with the peas - remember, an ounce of prevention is worth not having to make a trip to the dentist for a broken tooth)

This is what you are looking for

After you are done, place the peas in a strainer

and rinse the peas off before you will add them to the pot later on

Peel and crush the garlic and set aside.

Peel the potatoes

and place them in a pot of cold water until all the potatoes
are peeled you are ready to cube them

Cube the potatoes
I find it easy to cut the potatoes into slices about 3/4-inch think

and then give them a turn and slice them again

turn them one more time

cutting them into nice size cubes - so whatever works for you

Place them back in the water until you are ready for them

Measure out your sugar, thyme, and bay leaves and set aside. Open the can of broth

Rinse the ham hocks in cool water

Cube your ham (make thin slices in one direction, turn,
and then slice the opposite way)
and put it back in the refrigerator until you will need it.

Place the oil in a 16 quart pot

Add the bag of onions

Saute until translucent

Add the potatoes and cook for about 5-8 minutes

Remove from the heat and fill the pot with water very carefully and slowly to start so the water and oil don't splash up and cause you to get burned. Once you start to place the water in, you can speed up your filling of the pot

Add everything (the ham hocks, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves, carrots, peas, garlic, sugar, and chicken broth) to the pot, except the heavy cream and diced ham. Don't put too much salt, about 3 tablespoons for that size pot, because you will be serving this with parmesan cheese which is salty, and if you make the homemade croutons (we like ours salty) this will also add additional salt. You can always add more salt at the table.

Bring to a boil,

and then reduce to a simmer, it is very important that you stir the soup very frequently and make sure you go all the way to the bottom of the pot so it doesn't stick and burn.

You will notice a foam begin to form on the top
this is normal,

remove with a strainer
and discard

Here is what it will look like at various stages

Let simmer for a total of about 90 minutes

The soup will not look thick yet - remember pea soup thickens as it stay. I have never had to add any thickening agents to the soup, on the contrary sometimes you will need to add a little broth or cream to thin it a little, depending on you taste.

Remove the ham hocks and the bay leaves from the pot

If you see any visable meat on the ham hocks, you may pull it off and cut it up to add to the soup, but, most of the time, it is all fat.

At this point, what you do to the soup is up to you. After letting it cool for about 15 minutes (if you are using an immersion blender, about 40 minutes if you are using a regular blender) you have the option to blend the carrots, potatoes, and any remaining peas into a creamy soup. If you like the chunk of potatoes and carrots, you may leave them whole, or you may chose to puree some of the vegetables and leave some whole. If you want to leave some whole remove them from the pot, and add them back later. I like to puree everything, so my soup is creamy.

I use an immersion blender

and just go around the pot until everything is creamy

If you are using a regular blender, only fill it half way at a time, because hot liquids expand and you could get burned if you are not careful. Do this in batches, transferring each batch into another pot.

When your soup is all pureed to your liking,

stir in the cream

and the cubes of ham.

Serves with paremesan cheese, and croutons if desired

What you will need for the croutons:

To make the croutons, take a loaf of day old bread or slices of Italian bread

and slice it into

Melt one stick of butter in a large frying pan

Add garlic salt to taste

and parmesan cheese to taste (I use about 1/4 - 1/2 cup)

and freshly grated black pepper

Blend well

Stir in the bread cubes

Stir constantly to blend all the cubes with the butter mix

Stir until they are as golden brown in color and crispy as you prefer

Serve in a bowl and sprinkle on soup if desired

That is my crew at the top from L-R: David, Lauren, Elise, Marc, Jeffrey, and Steven

1 comment:

  1. They just don't make pea soup like that at Keph Drive