Split Pea Soup takes a Ribbing

Man, I hate the cold weather. I’m already tired of chillis and stews. What I want is ribs! But broiling them in my oven blows. Hey, wait a minute…ribs are pork, right? Pork goes great in soups, right? Let’s cook us some ribs in a split pea soup and have the best of both worlds!

Katt’s Baby Back Ribs in Split Pea Soup


2 tblsp of olive oil
9 oz of pancetta, chopped into small cubes
1 rack of baby back ribs
2 smoked ham hocks
1 large red onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 pd of split peas
2 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tsp of white pepper
Salt to taste
5 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tblsp of unsalted butter
1 dollop of heavy cream
Crusty bread

I like my soups and stews really spicy (hot), so if you’d rather not breathe fire while you eat this, don’t hit the ribs with the cayenne, and wait until right before you serve this to add any of the red pepper to the soup. You may find that the white pepper is all the spice that you need.

Start by cutting the ribs into individual pieces. Then, sprinkle the front and back with about a teaspoon worth of cayenne pepper. Next, chop up your pancetta. (For this particular demo I couldn’t get a single 9-ounce slab, so I bought three 3-ounce packages of sliced pancetta and I just chopped that up.) Pour your olive oil into either a stock pot or a roasting dish and bring that up to a medium heat. We want to slowly render out the fat from the pancetta without browning it too quickly, so this step should take between 15 and 20 minutes. Once the pancetta is browned, remove it from the pan and reserve it in a bowl.

Turn up the heat to medium high and brown the ribs on all sides.

Remove the ribs and add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan and sauté them until the onions turn soft, then add the chopped garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Now add back the browned ribs, the ham hocks, and the split peas and pour in enough cold water to bring it up to within an inch of the pot top.

Throw in the thyme, bay leaves, a teaspoon each of white and cayenne pepper, and bring the soup up to a rolling simmer. Skim off the foam, turn it down to a gentle simmer and let it cook uncovered for the next 2½ -3 hours, depending on how tender you prefer your rib meat. Remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaves and ham hocks, and then place the ribs on a separate platter. Cut out all of the meat from the hocks and return that to the soup.

Next I like to drop in a tablespoon of butter and just a dollop (less than a ¼ cup), of heavy cream to add a silky smoothness to the dish–but taste it prior. You may find that you love the richness of the soup as it is. Also, once I add the butter and cream I readjust the seasoning as I find that it mellows the spices as well.

Finally, ladle the soup into large bowls, drop in a rib and break out the crusty bread! You’ll be amazed at how thick and-rich tasting the soup has become even without using chicken stock as a base or flour as a thickener. And the meat will fall right off the bone from those ribs. Take off your shoes and pass the booze! It’s chow time!

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