We fell for the Instant Pot craze this winter with the purchase of a 6-quart, nine function unit. It is a single appliance designed to replace rice, slow, and electric pressure cookers in the home kitchen. It performs each of these functions well, but I view its ability to sauté meats and vegetables without dirtying another pan as a major attraction. The Instant Pot is simple to use, but it needs a little experimentation to adapt your recipes to its functions.
I started with a few simple recipes like cooking dried beans, making a beef stew, and experimenting with a few soups like this one for split pea soup with ham hocks. However, there are a few challenges with my family’s recipe for pea soup. When made according to Instant Pot directions, the ham hock and the split peas are cooked together. The problem here is that split peas take about 20 minutes in the pressure cooker, whereas ham hocks take about 45 minutes to reach that falling off the bone state. Though no doubt, there are better solutions, I have developed a two-stage cooking technique with the instant pot where I pre-cook the ham hock for 20 minutes at high pressure, drain the liquid, then start the split pea soup again from scratch. You can keep all or part of the ham broth, but I tend to throw most of it out and start again with fresh water.
- 1 smoked ham hock (about 1 pound)
- 1-pound dry split peas
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (chopped fine)
- 2 celery sticks (chopped)
- 2 carrots (chopped)
- 1-teaspoon fresh rosemary (diced)
- 2 bay leaves (left whole)
- 8 cups water or broth (may need adjustment)
Place the ham hock in the instant pot and cover with water, being careful not to fill the pot more than half full. Cook under high pressure for 20 minutes, then let the pressure out rapidly. Remove the ham hock and discard the cooking liquid (or may retain it for the soup).
Dry out the liner of the instant pot and place all of the dry ingredients into it. Stir to distribute the carrots, onions, and celery. Place the partially cooked ham hock on top and then fill with 8 cups of water (for a thicker, porridge-like consistency you can add 6 cups).
Pressure cook on high for 20 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally (about 15 – 20 minutes). When pressure is relieved, open the instant pot and remove the ham hock and bay leaves. Pull the meat off of the bone, chop to your desired size, and stir back into the soup. It is now ready to serve.
My wife likes to grate a little Pecorino Romano cheese on this –
Split pea soup is a rustic, herbaceous dinner. To me, it screams for a dry Zinfandel, like our 92 point stunner.