2 ham hocks or leftover ham bone
1 lb. bag of dried split peas
1-1/2 cups onion (diced fine)
2 to 3 Tbsp. garlic (diced fine)
3 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
7 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. curry powder (optional)
1 tsp. hot sauce (optional)
2 cups ham steak (diced into small cubes)
Croutons as garnish when serving (optional)
1) Heat a large Dutch oven or deep pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and ham hocks. Sauté for a few minutes until browned slightly. Remove from pan and set aside.
2) Add 3 Tbsp. butter to pot and melt. Add onion, salt and pepper and sweat for 2 minutes. Add garlic and bay leaf for another minute, stirring well. Add peas for another minute then add chicken broth and ham hocks. If you like the taste of curry (which really brings a nice flavor to this dish), add it now. For a little more kick, add the hot sauce now, also. Bring back to a simmer and reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
3) Remove the ham hocks and bay leaf. Using a handheld blender*, in a circular motion for about 5 to 10 seconds to reduce the soup into a smooth mixture. Add the diced ham and continue to simmer (covered) for another 15 minutes.
4) Taste for seasoning adjustment(s). Add a little at a time if necessary then serve.
If you don't have a handheld blender, fill a food processor or blender halfway with soup in batches until done, and then put back in pot. Be careful to hold down the lid with a towel since ingredients are very hot. If you are using a ham bone, you can skip step 1. Just add the bone when you are ready to simmer the soup for an hour.