I love the food of the American Southwest, and even if a dish isn’t Southwestern, I can make it taste like it is. Because everything tastes better with chiles. And chorizo.
Split Pea & Chorizo Soup
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ pound bulk Mexican chorizo, crumbled
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon pure chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon Mexican oregano
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
½ cup beer, preferably a Mexican ale
3 quarts chicken broth
1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
2 ½ cups split peas, picked over
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the chorizo and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, tossing about 2 times, until crusty and brown in spots.*
Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the celery and carrot and sauté for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic, chile powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, and cayenne and sauté 1 to 2 minutes more, or until fragrant. Add the beer and simmer for a minute or so, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a heat-proof spatula. Add the broth, green chiles, split peas, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours, or until the split peas fall apart. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf, and skim off any fat from the surface of the soup. Stir in the lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.
Serves 6 as a main course. If you can’t find bulk chorizo sausage, get some links of chorizo and remove the casings. Dried Mexican oregano, which has a unique floral character, can be found at some gourmet grocers and (usually for less than a dollar) at any Mexican market. If you can’t find it, just omit it from the recipe; don’t substitute common oregano.
*Searing the chorizo in this manner adds tons of flavor to the finished dish. For everything you ever wanted to know about searing, plus dozens of fabulous searing recipes, look for my book Seared to Perfection in stores in the fall of 2010.