Spring is my absolute favorite season. When I lived in the South, spring meant the scent of honeysuckle and driving with the top down. Now that I live in New England, spring brings Red Sox games and trips to Maine. Wherever I live, I find myself wanting to remove winter from all aspects of my life. Away go the snow boots and parkas, replaced by rain boots and slickers. Snow shovels get moved to the back of the shed while pots of herbs are set out on the deck. Suppers, instead of winter’s hearty fare of meat and root vegetables, often consist of soup and salad.
Whether you are served soup in a bowl or cup, here are a few tips for eating your first course politely:
- Use your soup spoon, the large spoon farthest from your plate on the right.
- Sip from the side edge of the spoon, not the front.
- Fill your spoon by moving it away from you. This will help you avoid making a mess of your clothes.
- Skim your spoon on the edge of the soup bowl as you fill it with soup to remove any potentially messy drops of soup from the bottom of the spoon.
- Tip your bowl away from you. This will help you avoid making a mess of your hostess’s tablecloth. (Yes, tipping the bowl to eat the last few spoonfuls is fine.)
- Soup served in a cup may be eaten with a small spoon, or you may lift the cup and drink the soup. No slurping, please.
- If garnishes are served, you should crumble crackers, sprinkle croutons.
- If soup is served in a bowl, leave your spoon on the plate underneath the bowl. If soup is served in a cup, leave your spoon on the saucer underneath the cup.
Spring Pea Soup Recipe
Peas are one of my favorite spring vegetables, so imagine my delight when I found this recipe for spring pea soup from Bon Appètit. April Bloomfield‘s soup, garnished with mint and crème fraîche, looks like a perfect spring supper.
For the broth
2 pounds meaty smoked ham hocks
1/2 medium Spanish onion, halved
3 small celery stalks, very roughly chopped
1/2 medium carrot, peeled, very roughly chopped
1 head garlic, halved horizontally, not peeled
1 fresh bay leaf, or 1/2 dried
6 black peppercorns
For the soup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small Spanish onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons Maldon or another flaky sea salt
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
Five-fingered pinch of mint leaves, plus some torn leaves for finishing
Two 10-ounce packages Birds Eye frozen baby peas
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 tablespoons crème fraîche
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar, divided
For the broth
Combine the hocks, vegetables, bay leaf, peppercorns, and 8 cups of water in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. turn the heat to low, put the lid on, and cook at a nice steady simmer until the meat on the hocks is so tender it’s almost falling off the bone, 4 to 5 hours. Carefully remove the hocks and put them in a big bowl. Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve into the bowl, and discard the vegetables and aromatics. Let the hocks cool in the liquid. When the hocks are cool enough to handle, pull off the meat in bite-sized chunks. Discard the bones and any hard bits and some of the fat, but don’t throw away the skin–I add the skin to the soup in thin slices, along with the chunks of ham. You don’t have to, but i like the way it goes sticky in the soup. You can keep the stock and meat (moistened with a splash of stock) in separate airtight containers in the fridge for up to two days. Gently warm the meat and skin before proceeding with the recipe. This recipe requires only 4 cups of stock–you may freeze the leftover stock for up to a month for your next batch of soup.
For the soup
Put the butter in a large pot that has a lid and set it over medium heat. Once the butter starts to froth, add the onion, carrot, and salt and stir. Cover the pot and cook, stirring every now and again, until the onions are soft and creamy (but not colored) and the carrots are tender but firm, about 15 minutes.
Add the wine and bring it to a boil (turn the heat up if you need to). let the wine boil until it’s all but gone, about 5 minutes. add the mint and 4 cups of the ham broth and bring the liquid to a boil, then add the peas. (at this point, the carrots will have bobbed to the top. i like to pick out most of the carrot chunks before pureeing the soup, then add them back after. that way, you can nibble on them in the soup, getting that bit of texture.) Cook at a simmer until the peas are warmed through and tender, about 5 minutes.
Blend the pot’s contents, in batches, until smooth. Return all the bright-green pea puree to the large pot, add the ham pieces and carrots, and cook at a very gentle simmer for about 5 minutes, just to let the flavors mingle and heat the ham. Have a taste, and season with salt. How much you need to add will depend on how salty the ham hocks are.
Add a generous drizzle of olive oil, several twists of black pepper, and the torn mint leaves. then add the crème fraîche in little blobs here and there, so everyone will get a bit. Serve the soup in the pot, with small bowls alongside.