Food & Drink

The Thomas Keller Library: Split Pea Soup

The Thomas Keller Library—comprising The French LaundryBouchonUnder PressureAd Hoc at Home, and Bouchon Bakery—is available in all ebook formats for the very first time. To celebrate the digital publication of these cookbooks, every week we will highlight a different recipe and excerpt from each of the five books. This week, we’re highlighting Ad Hoc at Home.


In Ad Hoc at Homea cookbook inspired by the menu of his casual restaurant Ad Hoc in Yountville, California, Thomas Keller turns his imagination to the American comfort foods closest to his heart—flaky biscuits, chicken pot pies, New England clam bakes, and cherry pies. In fun, full-color photographs, the great chef gives step-by-step lessons in kitchen basics—here is Keller teaching how to perfectly shape a basic hamburger, truss a chicken, or dress a salad. Best of all, where Keller’s previous bestselling cookbooks were for the ambitious advanced cook, Ad Hoc at Home is filled with quicker and easier recipes that will be embraced by both kitchen novices and more experienced cooks who want the ultimate recipes for American comfort-food classics.

Below, you’ll find an exemplar of Ad Hoc cooking, excerpted from the cookbook.

Split Pea Soup

with ham hock, fresh peas, and mint


This is at heart a classic split pea soup, with a big ham hock to flavor the stewing split peas, but rather than serving it as a rustic dish, it is pureed so that it’s smooth and velvety. Fresh peas, along with chunks of the ham hock and fresh mint, are part of the garnish. Serve this soup in the spring when peas are very, very sweet.


  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced carrots
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped leeks
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 smoked ham hock (about 1 pound)
  • 3 quarts Chicken Stock
  • 1 pound (about 2 cups) split peas, small stones removed, rinsed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups peas (2 pounds in the pod), blanched
  • ½ cup crème fraîche
  • Mint leaves


Heat the canola oil in an 8- to 10-quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the carrots, leeks, onions, and a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a parchment lid (with a hole cut in the center) and cook very slowly, stirring occasionally, for 35 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove and discard the parchment lid.

Add the ham hock and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and 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 tablespoon vinegar and salt to taste. Transfer some of the split peas and liquid to a Vita-Mix, filling it only about one-third full, and blend on very low speed until pureed. (If you blend it on high speed, the steam could pop the lid off and send the soup shooting out in all directions.) Transfer to a bowl, and puree the remaining soup in batches. Taste for seasoning, adding additional vinegar, salt, and/or pepper to taste if necessary. (The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. It will continue to thicken as it stands; add a bit of water or stock when reheating if it becomes too thick.)

Pull away and discard the skin and fat from the ham hock. Trim the meat and cut into ½-inch dice. (Refrigerate if not serving immediately; bring to room temperature before serving.)

To serve, reheat the fresh peas in a little water if needed. Drain and stir half the peas into the soup. Put the remaining peas, the crème fraîche, ham hock meat, and mint leaves in separate serving bowls, and serve the soup with the garnishes.




  • Reply
    January 6, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Where are you going to find fresh peas in the middle of winter? How about frozen?

  • Reply
    April 21, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    Frozen peas (best quality) are fine to add at the end instead of fresh peas in winter. I find it’s a great way to use up leftover ham from the holidays (usually NYE for us), and the quality of the split peas really makes a difference. Since this is a recipe to stretch your leftovers, I find it’s worth it to spend a bit more on the split peas, so they’ll taste more like peas and less like lentils (not that there’s anything wrong with lentils, I simply prefer peas in this recipe.

    In spring, depending on when Easter is, I add fresh peas if they look great in the market. The fresh peas didn’t look great in our market this year, and because of the coronavirus we weren’t about to go searching market to market for them. Instead I added some leftover Swiss chard leaves chopped and some leftover still-fresh pea shoots. Still delicious, though a tad different.

    Also, for what it’s worth, I’ve tried several Thomas Keller recipes and find his extra steps or long simmering (French onion soup) to be well worth it and adjusted my technique accordingly. I tried Keller’s way with the split pea soup, and found it laborious and less tasty than the Joy ofCooking version. Now, I cook the split peas, ham hock and water for one hour ala JOC. Then remove the hock, add the quantity of vegetables Keller calls for, simmer for an hour; then add diced ham (not from the hock but which I inevitably have left over), and spices, such as pinches of coriander, cayenne, white and/or black pepper, a grate or two of nutmeg, perhaps even a smidgen of mineral-rich gourmet salt (taste first). Cardamom, cumin or other favorite spices could be added. Then add greens such as Swiss chard and pea shoot tendrils, and you have a warm yet fresh spring soup. Use a stick blender before adding ham and greens to take it up a level.

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