Friday, January 18, 2013

"The Art of Danish Cooking" - Yellow Pea Soup

Date I made this recipe:  January 12, 2012

The Art of Danish Cooking by Nika Standen Hazelton
Published by:  Doubleday & Company Inc.
© 1964
Recipe:  Yellow Pea Soup – p. 50-51

In mid-December, my eyeglass shop (a very cool shop, by the way), Specs Optical (2204 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis) held a private party to showcase glass frames produced by Danish company, Lindberg.  I tell you what, folks these guys aren’t fooling around when it comes to glass frames as they are all made with gold, platinum and diamonds.  They were so pretty and so delicate and so cool, I can’t even tell you.  And believe it or not, they were “reasonably” priced given the materials that go into the frame. 

Specs Optical’s owner, John Oliva, had the right idea when he decided to serve Danish food to complement these Danish designs and so he found these two adorable sisters who specialize in Danish food and before you could say (or spell) “smorgasbord,” we were eating ourselves silly with their lovely repast.  John said that they were very specific about how the smorgasbord was laid out:  first you have your bread coated with butter, then your herrings (as in plural), then you had your open-faced sandwiches with thinly shaved pork roast, then your sandwiches with vegetables and cheese and then your nuts and cranberries and your Danish cookies.  Dang, that food was good and I was inspired.

And so it’s time for true confessions:  I attempted to make this soup right before Christmas but it didn’t work.  The reason, I suspect, is that the salt pork I had in my freezer was too old.  The soup didn’t smell rancid per se (not that I have experience smelling rancid food) but it didn’t smell good, either.  And so I threw it out rather than risk food poisoning.  My mother would have been so proud.  (And I also opened the windows in the kitchen – in late December – to get rid of “that smell.”)

Given that Christmas was around the corner, I waited to make this dish again as we had too much food stuff going on. Then I almost made it the week that my Green Bay Packers played the Minnesota Vikings but decided against it for perhaps the oddest (to you) of reasons:  Denmark is part of Scandinavia, Scandinavia is the home of the Vikings and ergo it would have jinxed my Packers to make food from the opposing team’s “turf.”  Yes, Virginia, this is how I rationalize many of my cookbook and recipe decisions!  

Here’s what I know about Denmark (and it ain’t much):  It snows there; they are taller than other ethnic groups (an uncle by marriage was Danish and was very tall as are his kids and his siblings and nieces and nephews); Shakespeare’s Hamlet was the Prince of Denmark (“To be, or not to be…”); their modern-day crown prince, Frederick is rather cute but alas, is married with four kids (this includes a set of twins) and so there goes that opportunity for me to be a princess; and there is a statue of Hans Christian Andersen (author of The Emperor’s New Clothes; Thumbelina, The Little Mermaid, etc.) in Copenhagen.  This concludes what I know about Denmark.

As to the recipe, I have made many a pea soup in my day but never with yellow split peas.  I can’t say as I noticed any discernable difference but that is just me.  I will say that the second batch was much, much better than the first – hooray! 

This recipe calls for salt pork and also says if the salt pork is too salty to soak it for a bit.  Directions like this always make me laugh because how would I know if the salt pork was too salty, hmmm?  I’m certainly not going to lick it or worse, eat it raw! So I did not soak it and although the meat itself was too salty for my taste (so I didn’t add it to the soup), the soup itself was right on point.  Go figure. (By the way, what do they mean “IF the salt pork is too salty?  If it’s called “salt pork” shouldn’t it be salty?  Is this a trick question?) Also, I can’t say as I liked the Vienna sausages as they were too squishy but I wasn’t about to go on a hunt for the Danish sausages that were deemed acceptable substitutes.  I ended up picking the sausage out of the soup and made a mental note to self not to use them again.  Other than coming in a cute, small can, I am not sure what they bring to the food world and don’t need another go-round to find out!

Here then is the yellow pea soup that I did not make right after a Danish party or for a Packers-Vikings game as it is not a good thing to give your opponent the edge.  (Result?  The Packers won!)

Yellow Pea Soup (serving size not given).  Note that the recipe notes say that the meats are served separately, with pickled beets, a good sharp mustard, dark rye bread and butter and ice-cold snaps and beer.  But that’s just a suggestion: in this house, we put the meat in the bowl along with the soup and lived to tell about it.

1 ½ cups yellow split peas
1 quart water (Ann’s Note:  I added more than one quart otherwise you will end up with burned and dry peas by the time you are done)
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound streaky bacon or salt pork in one piece
1 peeled and diced celery root or 1 cup chopped celery
3 sliced leeks or 1 cup green onion tops
6 cups water
3 sliced carrots
3 medium-sized potatoes, diced
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound Danish Canadian-style bacon or Canadian bacon, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 4-ounce can Danish or other Vienna sausages, drained

Combine split peas, water and salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer until tender and very soft – about 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Skim off pea skins as they float to the top.  Force through a sieve or a food mill or puree in blender.  Place bacon or salt pork in a large saucepan.  (If salt pork is very salty, soak in cold water for 30 minutes to 1 hour before using.)  Add celery and leeks or green onion tops.  Add water.  Cover and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until meat is tender.  Add carrots, potatoes and onion.  Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender.  Remove bacon or salt pork.  Cut into slices.  Skim fat from broth or chill in refrigerator, remove fat, and reheat.  Stir pea puree into broth.  If necessary, add additional water until soup is the consistency of thick cream.  Add sliced Canadian bacon and Vienna sausages cut into ½-inch pieces.  Heat soup to the boiling point.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Remove Canadian bacon and serve slices with the slices of bacon or salt pork.  Serve soup separately.

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