I learned a thing or two about Southern cooking during my time working on the Deen family cookbooks. Most significantly, I learned that even though I’m a Northerner through and through, I sure do like me some down home cooking from time to time. From stewed collards to chicken and dumplings, my food universe grew exponentially on those projects. So while cleaning out my meat freezer to make room for this year’s meat share I came across a ham hock I’d somehow missed and I knew immediately that I’d be cooking up a pot of Southern comfort food.
What makes soup so easy is that it is best made in the “kitchen sink” cooking style. That is, raid the kitchen and throw everything except the kitchen sink straight into the pot. I had some straggling carrots and celery in my fridge and my onions were starting to pile up in the pantry. Then I found an ancient packet of black-eyed peas sitting around collecting dust. And so my Whistling Dixie soup was born. It was delicious served with hunks of crusty bread. And it did the job of cleaning out the fridge to make room for my next batch of meat and veg. Win-win-win.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 fresh thyme sprigs
2¾ pound fresh ham hock, cut into large chunks (you can have your butcher do this)
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
4 cups chicken stock
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley for serving
- In a large deep pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring, about 10 minutes, until very soft but not browning. Add the garlic and thyme and stir 1 minute, until the garlic is fragrant.
- Add the ham and peas to the pot and cover with stock and 4 cups water. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for about 1½ hours, until the meat and beans are tender.
- Remove the ham from the pot and place on a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the bone, fat, and gristle. Discard the bone, fat and gristle and break the meat into bite-sized chunks. Add the meat back into the soup.
- Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.
Recipe note: A few people have asked me where they can get fresh ham hock. I realize it’s much easier to find smoked ham hock so I figured a quick note on this would be helpful. Thanks to Laurissa Michael who tipped me off that she’s gotten fresh ham hock from Fresh Direct. Also note that you can use other slow cooking cuts of pork with the bone-in if you absolutely can’t find a ham hock.
Nutritional analysis based on 8 servings (does not include salt, pepper, and parsley):
Calories 376, Fat 22g, Sodium 160mg, Carbohydrate 20g, Fiber 7g, Sugar 1g, Protein 30g