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Smoky Field Pea and Greens Soup with Black Pepper Cornbread Croutons

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Ingredients

4 ounces Benton’s bacon or other deeply smoked bacon, cut crosswise into ¼-inch strips

1¼ cups chopped onion

¾ cup thinly sliced celery

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 small bay leaf

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided

5 cups chicken stock

3 cups shelled field peas, preferably peas and snaps

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups lightly packed stemmed and thinly shredded leafy greens, such as spinach, chard, kale, or escarole

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon pepper vinegar or cider vinegar

Black pepper cornbread croutons, for serving (recipe follows)

Black Pepper Cornbread Croutons

3 cups day-old sugar-free cornbread cut into 1-inch cubes

6 tablespoons bacon fat and/or butter, melted

½ teaspoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Directions

  1. Cook the bacon in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring often, until browned and almost crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Spoon off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Save the rest to use in the croutons.
  2. Stir in the onion, celery, carrots, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of the thyme, and 1 teaspoon of the rosemary and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  3. Add the stock, peas, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the peas are tender, about 25 minutes. (The fresher the peas, the more quickly they cook.) Remove the bay leaf.
  4. Stir in the greens, pepper flakes, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of thyme and rosemary. Cook, stirring often, until the greens wilt, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the bacon and vinegar and check the seasoning. Serve hot, topped with a handful of black pepper cornbread croutons.

Make-ahead note: The soup can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Do not add the bacon until time to serve. Check the seasoning because the soup will likely need more salt and vinegar.

Black Pepper Cornbread Croutons

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Spread the cornbread cubes in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until firm and just beginning to color on the edges, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir together the bacon fat, salt, and pepper. Drizzle over the bread cubes and toss lightly to coat. Continue baking until the croutons are crispy and golden brown on the edges, about 15 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Pour onto a cutting board or large plate to cool.
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