4 slcs thick-cut smoked bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 mediums onions finely chopped
3 garlic cloves crushed
1 celery stalk chopped
2 carrots peeled, and
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock
(or 1 1/2 quarts regular canned
1 smoked ham hock - (abt 1 lb) see * Note
1 pound dried split peas
Salt to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
* Note: Although this is an easy, straightforward recipe, be sure to use the ham hock or ham bone. I have tested this soup without it and find that without the bone and the meat, it is not really worth making. If you cannot find a smoked ham hock (usually found in the freezer section) and you do not have any cooked ham available, use bone-in smoked ham. (If you want a really meaty soup, use 2 pounds instead of 1.)
Cook the bacon in 6-quart stock pot or Dutch oven and drain on paper towels. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat and then add the olive oil and butter. Over medium heat, cook until foam subsides and then add the onion and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently for 15 to 20 minutes until onions are dark brown and have caramelized.
Add the garlic, celery and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until carrots have softened. Add the remaining ingredients except the salt and pepper and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for about 1 1/2 hours, until peas fall apart and soup is thick.
Remove and discard the bay leaf. Remove the ham bones, trim off any meat, and return the meat to the pot, discarding the bones. Whisk soup until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. (The ham is salty and therefore it is unlikely you will need to add salt.) Crumble bacon and sprinkle on individual servings.