I took a little vacation from Thanksgiving this weekend. While most Americans were just getting ramped up, I was in need of a break—listed out, planned out. Dare I say I was over-prepared? Prior to this weekend, I didn’t think such a thing existed. But I might have jumped the gun, a bit, I admit, in my Thanksgiving preparation.
So, once I finalized my grocery list on Thursday, I barely thought about the impending holiday until Sunday afternoon. On Friday, we spent the night at a favorite dinner spot. Then, on Saturday, we packed our car full of chili and fixings and plenty of beers and some peanut butter brownies, and set up shop in a parking lot near Northwestern’s football stadium, along with a bunch of friends. We cooked Italian on Saturday night and went to bed early. Turkey and tubers and stuffing and such all seemed far, far away. The positively un-November weather added to the illusion. How could Thanksgiving be only a few days away when it was sixty (!) degrees and the sun was shining and the smell of grill smoke filled the air?
Of course, the signs of Thanksgiving were there still there, lurking in the background: the trees had long since shed their leaves; the sun set well before five o’clock; my friends and I swapped Thanksgiving menu tips at our tailgate (Brynn, if you’re reading, I really do need your grandma’s pumpkin chiffon pie recipe!). And, when I woke up early Sunday morning, I was finally ready to get back to the business of getting ready for Thanksgiving.
But I eased myself back in. We went Thanksgiving Grocery Shopping (an event fully worthy of capitalization), but only after a nice, leisurely breakfast. And I made gravy (in the freezer, now), ice cream (to slump up alongside the pies) and some cocktail nuts for Thursday, but I did it slowly, at my own pace, mixing in some “regular” cooking along the way.
This soup falls squarely—blissfully—in that “regular” cooking category. In fact, I’ve been making this soup all fall, long before we rounded this bend toward Thanksgiving. And I adore it—it’s simple and hearty, with a faint hint of porkiness. It’s studded with orange cubes of carrots and green wisps of thyme leaves and pink slips of diced bacon. And it achieves the perfect split pea soup texture—just this side of a puree, most of the peas broken down and gone creamy, but plenty of the peas retaining their shape.
It’ll be just the thing to keep my energy up this week as I dig in my heels for the Thanksgiving homestretch. If you’re more sensible than me and only just now getting started with your Thanksgiving preparation, tuck this recipe away for after the holiday, when you’re ready to return to the regular.
Split Pea Soup
Yield: 4 bowls
2 to 3 slices of thick-cut, best-quality bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium/store bought)
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups split peas
In a large, heavy soup pot, cook the diced bacon over medium heat until it begins to brown (about 5 minutes). Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and thyme to the bacon; stir and cook for several minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften (about 5 minutes). Add wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the stock, water and peas; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and cook the soup over medium-low heat for an hour to an hour-and-a-half, until most of the split peas have broken down and the soup reaches your desired consistency.