split pea soup with flanken

November 12th, 2008 · 39 Comments

i’m one of those people who don’t have a great deal of attachment to my childhood food memories. i mean, being from nyc i grew up around seriously great food but my mom was not a gourmet cook. she saw feeding us each night as her familial duty and she did a solidly good job – but nothing extraordinary was happening in our kitchen on yellowstone blvd. i have a dim recollection, which just the mere thought of now causes me to cringe, of flounder rolled with a can of campbell’s condensed alphabet soup mixed with sour cream. and perhaps on a much higher note, my brother’s favorite was veal parmigiana and we always had that for dinner whenever he came home from college – and i’ve got to say that my mom did a pretty damn fine rendition of that. but nothing else really stands out. just that we had a varied and well rounded menu and no one ever went hungry. 

but my grandma julia, now she was a real ballabusta. and her kitchen was huge – at least 600 square feet and well, i spent a lot of time in that kitchen on long island. tons of weekends and sleep overs and then there were all the jewish holidays. my brother once told me that the philosophy of our relatives pretty much boiled down to "we’re jews, you didn’t kill us, let’s eat".

and eat we all did, the likes of which i’ve never quite seen anywhere else. the greenbaum’s at a buffet are a sight to behold.

my grandma made a lot of wonderful dishes, and many were the classics one might expect. there was her chicken soup with knadlaich, stuffed cabbage, chopped liver, brisket and a tongue dish in a raisin sweet and sour sauce that i loved dearly until one sorry afternoon when i was about 13 and had a run in with the tongue, sitting there in all it’s glory on the kitchen counter – before it had been peeled and sliced, leaving an indelible scar on my young psyche.

and then there was her pea soup, sweet from carrots and onions with generous chunks of rich beef studded throughout a soup so thick that the spoon could easily stand up in the bowl all on its own.

and i had all but forgotten about this soup until recently when it suddenly crossed my mind. grandma julia’s pea soup. with flanken. but what exactly was flanken? so i googled it and discovered that flanken is the strip of meat from the chuck end of the short ribs. short ribs... of course… what a perfect soup meat. and short ribs are beyond popular these days, the beefy version of perhaps pork belly, making an appearance on every trendy menu and even in your supermarket meat case (whereas in nashville, tracking down ‘flanken’ i am sure would be a bit of a wild goose chase). so i’d say that short ribs could be classified as an "in" cut of beef – especially this time of year, that lends itself really well to braises and stews – and soups.

i’m pretty sure my grandmother wouldn’t have browned the meat first, but i did. so into the pot went the short ribs, still on the bone and after they were browned on all sides i added two chopped onions and 4 big sliced carrots followed by a bag of green split peas and some of my superlative chicken stock and water. about 2 hours after it had slowly simmered, i added two bay leaves and fresh thyme, salt and cracked pepper and let it go about another 90 minutes. my mom told me that my grandmother used to run it all through a food mill, but everything had broken down on its own and there was no need to purée it any further.

this split pea soup boasts an earthy and uncomplicated flavor. and it really is startlingly good. cary loved it. and to me it felt familiar and soothing. and i think my grandma would have been very pleased.

so listen. i know, i know… put all the cured pork you want into your pea soup. but i’m telling you… you are so wrong.

because i will see you one ham hock and raise you some flanken…



Tags: beef · soup

39 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lauren // Nov 12, 2008 at 8:18 am

    love it! with it cold outside, soup looks SO good.

  • 2 Sara // Nov 12, 2008 at 9:10 am

    I LOVE split pea soup, I usually make it with ham or bacon, but I’ll have to give your way a try!

  • 3 robin @ caviar and codfish // Nov 12, 2008 at 9:28 am

    I don’t hold on too much of my childhood food memories either (lot of spaghetti and meatballs and bbq chicken) but have a few winners in there too.

    Nothing like this soup though! Short ribs in pea soup, how interesting! I really have got to try this.

  • 4 canarygirl // Nov 12, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Oh HELL yes. *Just* this week I found split peas at my organic grocer. I cannot freaking WAIT to make some split pea soup! Loving the fact that the spoon stands up! Gawd. Yum.

  • 5 Erik // Nov 12, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Okay, I am going to try it your way; and if I like it better, I will owe you one giant debt of gratitude. Now I have to try to find some place that sells flanken, or even knows what it is.

  • 6 maggie // Nov 12, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Wow. Never thought of short ribs in split pea soup but it’s a perfect idea. Perfect. As soon as we finish eating all the brisket we made…I guess it’s “grandmother’s cooking” season again.

  • 7 michelle @ TNS // Nov 12, 2008 at 11:48 am

    just the image of the spoon sticking straight up makes me feel warmer.

    brian’s mom does the sweet-and-sour-raisin thing, with meatballs. and i gotta say, i love the jews, but i just don’t get that one.

  • 8 Biz // Nov 12, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    That’s my husbands favorite soup – I just can’t get over the color! I’ll have to try this one for him.

  • 9 Heather // Nov 12, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    I admit, I use ham. I like that salty smoke. But I can get behind some short ribs in pea soup. I’ll see your flanken and fold.

  • 10 Robert // Nov 12, 2008 at 2:43 pm


    Grandmothers prove there is a God.

  • 11 split pea soup with flanken | dairyfactory.com // Nov 12, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    […] Go to see the original […]

  • 12 maris // Nov 12, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    I will admit that I’ve never heard of flanken but your pea soup looks incredible. I love thick soups – when I make lentil soup usually it’s more stew-like than soup!

    And I grew up the same way – jews celebrating with food – there’s no better way to celebrate :)

  • 13 naomi // Nov 12, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I see your flanken and raise you an oxtail. Just got some trembling on the stove right now, all cuddled up with leeks and carrots. All that lovely cartiledge just melts right into the soup, mmm.

    Love the family philosophy. I wish my family had a similar one, but unfortunately the Irish have a startlingly awful food heritage, so it was always, ‘never mind the food, let’s tell stories’….

    x x x

  • 14 Julie // Nov 12, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    One of the most traumatic moments of my childhood eating — and there were many — was the time my mother made tongue and then served it on a platter as is. Just a big, gross tongue. I was about ten and my sisters and I did some serious hysterical crying at the very idea of eating it. My mother was a dangerous combination: bad cook, given to experimenting with odd things like tongue and tripe.

    I’ve never seen short ribs in pea soup (I’ve always used ham hocks) but I love short ribs and think they make everything better. And isn’t flanken a much cooler name than short ribs?

  • 15 We Are Never Full // Nov 12, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    great post! this soup reminds me of those chunky soup commericals – if memory serves correct, it said something like, “so good, you’ve gotta eat it with a fork”… i think i’m wrong there.

    anyways, even w/o the spoon standingstraight up in the pic, you can tell how thick it is. love the idea of the flanken/short ribs…

    ps: please, please, please, i beg you to give tongue a try! maybe veal tounge? maybe, just maybe?

  • 16 Ethel // Nov 12, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    What a great dinner served in one bowl with good bread and a salad. I would imagine this soup freezes real well for more good meals.
    You are fortunate to have this fabulous receipe of 1. take lots of memories and2, mix with your grandmother’s love of good cooking and 3, add your take to it and share with others.
    How wonderful is that !!!!!!

  • 17 Kim // Nov 12, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Grandmothers are the best, and I loved your story! Split pea soup is one of my favorite soups. I grew up using pork as the meat, but going to try flanken next time. Love the spoon test…..

  • 18 Diana // Nov 12, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Beefy split pea! Now there’s an idea my man can get on board with. Had no idea about flanken. Thanks for bringing it south!

  • 19 kristie // Nov 12, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    flanken, blanken, and nad: a favorite bedtime story of mine about 3 children sailing through the sky on a raft of meat…ah.

    Peas are so tasty, and your writing is beautiful, but pea soup looks like boogers. Yours looks like oddly delicious boogers, though.

  • 20 Flora // Nov 13, 2008 at 12:09 am

    This thick split pea is an Uncle Bernie’ favorite soup, right next to chicken soup with Matzah balls. I only use flanken, which can be purchased at Kosher meat markets, where in Atlanta they are located at the KROGER or PUBLIX , located in the larger Jewish neighborhoods. Flanken bones add lots of flavor. Like Grandma Julia, I take the cooked flanken out of the soup, if it hasn’t totally shredded apart after cooking, and we eat it separately with red horseradish. I use it from a jar, but Claudia, I have a feeling you would make that from scratch! I add a bag of shelled white large lima beans and at the end of cooking, some barley. Before I put in the white beans, I soak them in boiling water, and take off the skins before adding them to the soup. This is very time consuming – but it’s worth the effort. This is something that my mother-in-law did. My soup recipe is a combination of my mother and my mother-in-law’s recipes. When I make this soup, I make a huge pot of it and put it away in various containers to freeze. It’s a perfect winter supper. Like your photo, our spoons also can stick up straight in this thick and yummy soup. It feels like winter already- time to buy that flanken and the rest of the soup ingredients.

  • 21 noble pig // Nov 13, 2008 at 2:30 am

    You didn’t kill us, let’s eat…oh that’s a good one…love the soup and oh yes flanken, I would have to go back to L.A. to find that one!

    Beautiful memories attached to this winning recipe, loved reading it.

  • 22 Samantha // Nov 13, 2008 at 2:57 am

    Oh this post was really lovely. It made me miss my mom’s mediocre cooking. My grandmother was also a fabulous cook.
    Maybe it’s time to make pea soup, and soon!

  • 23 ntsc // Nov 13, 2008 at 7:28 am

    Flanken is Yiddish for short ribs cut in a specific way. Across multiple bones instead of with the bone. (I’m not Jewish, but this was the answer when I asked a Jewish cook friend, who is in my wife’s league when it comes to cooking).

    This should work with any beef laden with cartilage/fat to melt. Don’t cook very much over 180F

    I think it would taste great with ox-tails, but ox-tails do have a different taste from other beef.

    We have also done this with a bone from a dry cured ham

  • 24 lifeinrecipes // Nov 13, 2008 at 7:31 am

    A slice of apple tart for a bowl of your soulful bowl of pea soup – deal? Want it now.

  • 25 Jack // Nov 13, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    I absolutely love pea soup but it makes me gassy. Ive never tried it with beef, so maybe Ill get some short ribs and stay away from open flames for a couple of days! They say Flanken has been quite popular lately in Minnesota! :)

  • 26 lo // Nov 13, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    mmm. Pea soup with a spoon standing up in it.
    Now you’re playing my song.

    Great stories to go along too!

  • 27 Jennifer Hess // Nov 13, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Oh. Oh my. I see pea soup with flanken in my future.

  • 28 Melissa // Nov 13, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    So our mothers were similar then. Decent food, but more out of duty than a joy of cooking, to be sure. My mom had specialties too. Brisket, veal parmigiana (!), crockpot lasagna, fried chicken, corned beef and cabbage… yeah, I’m all out.

    You already know my grandmothers didn’t teach me squat about food either, but my dad’s mother Helen did make great soups. I’ve only stopped to ponder recreating her matzo ball one and her beef barley one. I haven’t thought about the split pea one in years and years. What a wonderful reminder this post is. Wonderful. :)

    Short ribs. Hm. I’ll think about it. 😉

  • 29 Peter // Nov 13, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    That’s a great idea… especially since I’ve got a big-ass hunk of brisket for making pastrami next week………

  • 30 Traci @ Soup of The Day // Nov 14, 2008 at 12:08 am

    That is really funny about seeing the tongue. I was JUST thinking, wait, a kid liked tongue?

  • 31 [eatingclub] vancouver || js // Nov 14, 2008 at 12:45 am

    If ever I get to cook my split pea soup (it always gets postponed: Vancouver weather plays with me like you wouldn’t believe), I’ll try it with flanken. Yup. That’s what I’m going to do.

  • 32 Bren // Nov 17, 2008 at 9:01 am

    girlfriend, you know splitpeas are my absolute fave bean in the world. I just mentioned that in my last post. I love to see other people’s versions. Bellabusta?!?! Classic–love it!

  • 33 Irene // Nov 19, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    My dad always says that every Jewish holiday is like, “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat!” 😀

  • 34 maybelles mom // Nov 23, 2008 at 11:28 am

    love the flanken; I definitely would have browned the meat.

  • 35 Bren // Jan 3, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    hey you. so you are the only non-Cuban I’ve ever known to know what split peas are and you actually cook them very similar to our potaje. though we don’t eat ours as soup, instead over rice. ours is not as thick as your eithers. but the flavors are similar. and since we don’t eat pork, we too use flank steak (we don’t brown first). and so ur right! they can put all the ham hock they want, but they’re WRONG!!! lol. In short, split peas ( we call them chicharos (pronounced “cheecharros”) are my all time favorite beans! I just had them last week during my visit home for Christmas! LOVE THEM.

    okay I’m such an idiot. I just realized i had already commented on this back in Nov. Oh well, that’s how much I love them! Happy New Year love.

  • 36 bob friedman // Feb 8, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    thanks for this remarkable posting! my mother also made this recipe. i believe she would use a manischevitz soup mix-a cellophane package filled with lentils and different colored split peas. sometimes she would add potatoes-as if it was not thick enough!
    what could be more fortifying than this soup on a cold winter night?

  • 37 HARVEY SININS // Jan 6, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Sounds like a great recipe, just wondering the proper amount of water and chicken stock to use for one bag of split peas.

  • 38 Sue mack // Dec 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Making this soup and enjoying my own grandma memories. We always had beef flanken in the pea soup. Now that I am a grandma too I must say she was the best cook, and had the smallest and most challenging Brooklyn kitchen!
    I just googled pea soup and flanken and found your story. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for the memories.

  • 39 Amy Pupino Carbonelli // Sep 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    I must say don’t let my last name fool you my BUBBIE, G-d rest her soul, made the BEST tzimmis in town and I loved her REAL POLISH style sweet and sour cabbage. Can’t find that SOUR SALTS anywhere in South Florida. However her split pea soup sounds so much like yours. There was always Flanken in it. What good would the soup be without it. Even though it is 80 degrees outside I’m making this tonight! I remember walking into her kitchen in Rochester, NY and she was making Chopped Liver. I said: Bubbie you can’t use that there’s purple INK on it!….The mark from the Butcher….Put me OFF chopped liver for a while, but the great taste brought me back!Thanks for the memories…..

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