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Smoky Pig Foot Pea Soup
Try to forget about all the things that a pig could step in, and start thinking about how much flavor the skin 'n' bones of a smoked pig hoof can add to your pea soup.
12 oz. dry split peas
8 oz. low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 Spanish onion, chopped
1/2 pound pork shoulder (a 1/2" slice is best); pork stew meat is a good pinch-hitter
2 bay leaves
1 smoked pig trotter, about 1/2 pound (a hock is fine too)
olive oil for sautéing
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1 carrot, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Rinse split peas in water. Drain and soak in new water. Cut up the slice of shoulder into about 10 chunks. While the peas are soaking, lightly brown the pork shoulder and trotter in a saucepan. Remove from pan and sauté onions until soft and only slightly browned (more browning will give the soup a dark, muddy color). Deglaze with the stock. Add the meat and hoof, bay leaves, and enough water to cover the hoof. Simmer with the lid off for about 90 minutes, or until the shoulder meat is very soft. Add more water along the way if necessary.
Add the peas, the pea water, and the butter. Bring to a boil. Skim the scum off the top. Simmer with the lid off and add the carrots after about 30 minutes. Simmer until the peas start to break down and the consistency goes from clear to green (about a half hour after the carrots were added). Stir occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom. Add more water if the soup gets thick too quickly.
By now, the shoulder meat should have dutifully fallen apart in shreds and mingled with the sweetness of the peas. The knuckles of the hoof are probably exposed, donating all that smoky, marrow-y, not-quite-kosher goodness to the soup.
Ironically, kosher salt works best here. You might be surprised by how much salt the pork needs, so keep adding it until the soup tastes right (note: the smoked hoof will have already added some saltiness). Add some black pepper and serve it with croutons or crusty sourdough.
Serves 4 to 5 people. There is hardly any meat on the hoof (it's mostly for flavor), so there is no need to fight over who gets it.
©2010 Darrin DuFord