split pea soup with flanken

November 12th, 2008 · 90 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

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  • 34 Tracy Ourhaan // Nov 24, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Our Gevalt,

    What a bunch of Goyim. There is but one Pea Soup and it is as described. My Grandma Natalie, (Her real name was Bessie) could make anything taste good. My mon, like described ahead, not so much.

    Soup Starter is the Manaschewitz Cello Pack for Split Pea Soup. Keep Kosher Salt Handy, Some Pepper, a couple of bay leaves and either bouiliion cubes in chicken, beef, Maggie, or just the little packets the come with the Pea Soup Tube. Then your choice of beef from the following, one or more (Brisket, Short Ribs, Whole Beef Ribs, Marrow Bones, Flunken, Ground Chuck, Chuck Roast) anything with a good bit a fat will do.

    You want some good hearty chunks, so cut them into 2 in cubes and rub some Kosher salt on the beef, and with a small bit of Olive Oil sizzling in the bottom of the big 15 qt soup Pot, ‘ Brown the crap out of the Beef to sear in the remaining fat so it breaks down after the peas soften and are able to absorb that goodness. All those klingons at the bottom that you just thought you ruined the pot are what makes the soup so freaking good. There should be plenty of beef fat after about five minutes on high browning the meat. Now, through in some whole cloves of garlic 6-8 will do, a tablespoon of whole black pepper, two to three onions chopped coursely, two to three hand fills of the mini carrots cut in half (1-2 bags/ 1 lb), a full stalk of cleaned and chopped celery ( same size as the onions as they cook at the same rate) and a box of of fresh mushrooms halved or whole about twice the size of the celery and onions as they cook in ½ the time. Shake the pot so it is level. Cover with the hottest water from the sink. 8 cups 10 cups, whatever, it doesn’t matter. This is your soup, it can be what you want it to be. Bring the whole thing to a boil. Either add a couple of boullion cubes or some more Kosher salt to taste.

    Now add your cello pack of peas and stir while it is boiling. Let boil for a minute or two. Cover the pot and put the temp down to the lowest temp setting. And DONT OPEN THE LID. Let it cook unattended for an hour. Then open the lid and stir. Put lid back on and cook for another 1 ½. If the soup is not thick enough, continue to cook the soup without the cover until the desired consistency is obtained.

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