Split Pea Soup Thomas Keller Style

October 22nd, 2013

Thomas Keller’s French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley is among the top 50 best restaurants in the world.  He has won many awards and has established several other restaurants in his illustrious career.  Among them are Bouchon in Yountville, California, Per se in New York City and his more humble establishment, ad hoc, also in Yountville, where a different fixed price comfort dinner is served every night.  I own both his French Laundry Cookbook and his ad hoc at home cookbook.  My favorite is the ad hoc cookbook for obvious reasons.  The recipes are more approachable and simpler in conception.  But they still have the Thomas Keller style.

There is a depth of flavor to all of his recipes because he takes the time to make it happen.

In the case of the split pea soup, he starts by steaming carrots, onions and leeks with a parchment paper lid.  The vegetables are cooked long enough to release lots of flavor.

Chicken broth and a ham hock are added to the vegetables and are simmered gently.  The soup is strained and then the split peas are added.  By this time the broth is full of flavor.

The finishing touches are fresh peas, creme fraiche and mint.  The soup is so nuanced; a smooth rich pureed base, chunks of ham, bright peas, rich cream and fresh mint.  This is a well thought out rendition of split pea soup and I am definitely a Thomas Keller fan.


  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 c thinly sliced carrots
  • 2 c coarsely chopped leeks
  • 2 c coarsely chopped onions
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 smoked ham hock (about 1 pound)
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 pound split peas (about 2 cups) , small stones removed, rinsed
  • 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 c peas, either fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 c crème fraîche
  • Mint leaves

Heat oil in large stockpot/dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the carrots, leeks, onions and a generous pinch of salt.  Reduce the heat to low, cover with a parchment lid and cook very slowly, stirring occasionally, for 34-40 minutes, until vegetables are tender.  Remove and discard the parchment lid.

  Add ham hock and chicken stock, bring to a simmer for 45 minutes.  Prepare an ice bath.  Strain the stock into a bowl, discard the vegetables and reserve the ham hock.  Place the bowl of stock over the ice bath to cool. (The split peas will cook more evenly when started in a cold liquid.)
Return the cold stock and ham hock to the pot, add the split peas and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 1 hour, or until the split peas are completely soft (do not worry if the peas begin to break apart, as they will be pureed).
Remove the soup from the heat and remove and reserve the ham hock.  Season the soup with 1 tbsp vinegar and salt to taste.  (Be careful with the salt at this point because the ham hock adds a lot of salt.)  Blend the split peas and liquid until smooth.  Taste for seasoning, adding pepper and additional vinegar if needed.
  Pull away and discard the skin and fat from the ham hock.  Trim the meat and cut into 1/2″ dice. (I added more ham at this point because the ham hock was not very meaty).
To serve, heat peas, (he recommends fresh but I only had frozen) and add half to the soup.  Put the remaining peas, creme fraîche, ham meat and mint leaves in separate serving bowls and serve the soup with the garnishes. Serves 6.

15 responses to “Split Pea Soup Thomas Keller Style”

  1. Sam Hoffer says:

    What a lovely and sophisticated soup. Just as you would expect from Thomas Keller, everything and every step thought out to the exact degree. Beautiful presentation Penny. It must taste awesome.

  2. larry says:

    Top 50 in the world is beyond impressive. I enjoy split pea soup and can imagine this to be a great version.

  3. Penny @ The Comforts of Home says:

    I love the idea of adding the fresh peas at the end. It sounds wonderful! Looking forward to Thursday!

  4. bellini says:

    I bow down to the method here by Thomas Keller. I do love a good split pea soup. It takes me back to my childhood.

  5. Susan says:

    Oh my…love split pea soup and this does go way beyond that. Thomas Keller is fantastic.

  6. Karen says:

    Yum! I love split pea soup and this recipe looks just great!

  7. KathyWalker says:

    Interesting process….I can see the layers of flavor.. Who doesn’t love a great split pea soup on a chilly day!? I will have to give this a try…I have enjoyed paging through the cookbooks but…I hate to admit…I have never made anything….this will be the maiden voyage…

  8. Darla says:

    Sounds delicious, especially on this cold raw, rainy day! I definitely plan to try this. Do you ever list any nutrition info, since calories are important to us these days?

  9. L.A. Brown says:

    I have the ad hoc cookbook and haven’t looked at it in awhile. Thanks for the reminder. This soup looks beautiful. Great idea to add the fresh peas to liven up the colors.

  10. Mary Sullivan says:

    Looks amazing but of course I make a veggie version usually – unless I break down and cook a ham for Bob and company around the holidays!

    Yes, been to French Laundry………….well, stood in the parking lot sighing over not being able to get in, LOL!! We have friends who lived very close by that fabulous establishment in a beautiful house with a vineyard as their back garden – sadly they decided the commute to SF for work was too long and they moved back to the Bay Area.

    Tonight I’m making your Mexican Butternut Squash and Corn Saute – am I correct in thinking I could use any leftovers in a risotto?

    Have a lovely time tomorrow with Penny – I’d be at the ScreenDoor in a heartbeat if closer!!!
    Enjoy the day together and please hug her for me!

    Hugs to you, Mary

    P.S. Had some really nice vegetarian food in Budapest and Prague – surprising as they are big carnivores!

    • Penny Klett says:

      Yes, the leftovers would be great in risotto Mary. Wish you lived closer so we could all pop over to the Screen Door together. Hugs back, Penny

  11. Barbara Williams says:

    I love that cookbook, Penny! Yes, he takes time with each recipe, but the resulting flavors are worth it. My mother always swore by a ham hock in her lentil soup as well as her pea soup. So much added flavor there. This looks fabulous. Not quite soup-making weather here yet, but I’m loving your soup recipes!

  12. Chris says:

    Pinned it and absolutely will try this very soon. Soup weather arrived with a fury this week, didn’t it? Fantastic food styling too, as always.

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