I think we know each other well enough at this point that I can confess the following to you: my parents sent me to Etiquette School when I was a child. It’s true.
And to those of you who have ever met me in person: I can hear your snickering! I can see the shock and disbelief! I’m asking you not to hate the pun hurling, salad fork eschewing, loud guffawing, elbows on the table player, hate the etiquette game.
You know, I tried to make the most of it. I really did. But I couldn’t get past the frilly, smocked dresses that I was forced to wear to class. I couldn’t ignore the scary, scary teacher who resembled a cross between Julia Child and Mama Cass. And I really, really couldn’t find a way around the food that was served as a part of each lesson.
I’m sure on some planet, in some solar system, somewhere in a parallel universe, serving chilled split pea soup is a super-polite thing to do. I just don’t live on that planet. Do you? Of course not. Duh.
I mean, if I’m doing my absolute best to impress, if I’m hosting house guests and working hard at being my most politest EVER, I’m serving a cake. Or maybe some lovely homemade crackers with cheese. I’d even bust out the tea sandwiches before I’d ladle a bowl full of cold pea soup for someone I was trying to astonish and delight with my amazing grasp of the rules of modern etiquette.
Doesn’t that just make good common sense?
Would you slip a cold eel down the back of the handsome/beautiful such-and-such that you’re trying to get cozy with? Or leave a basket full of the world’s smelliest cheeses on the desk of your boss just before your annual review?
I really don’t think so. That just wouldn’t be good manners.
Amazingly, I did end up learning how to set a table for supper and comport myself in polite company. I also grew to love split pea soup, but only served super hot and alongside a loaf of cheesy, cheesy bread.
This take on split pea soup is smoky from chipotle chiles and rich from just a bit of heavy cream. The accompanying bread is smothered in lovely queso Oaxaca (you can absolutely substitute mozzarella) and topped with crunchy chopped green onions.
And, you know, I think this is actually a pretty polite meal. I sure felt dainty and ladylike while I ate it.
Yes, I threw an elbow when A. attempted some cheesy bread thievery. Yes, I guffawed loudly at several points throughout the night. And, yes, a pun or two may have made their way into this girl’s polite conversation.
But the soup was served hot and the bread was served cheesy! That’s my kind of etiquette.
Chipotle Split Pea Soup & Oaxaca Cheese Toast
For the soup:
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 c. yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 lb. green split peas, dried
10 c. water
2 tsp. sea salt, finely ground
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
2 tsp. cumin, ground
1 1/2 tbsp. chipotle chile, ground
4 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. oregano, ground (I prefer to use Mexican oregano here, but any dried oregano will do.)
1/2 c. heavy cream
For the bread:
1 large, crusty loaf of bread (I opted for a sourdough loaf, but you can use any standard-type French or other baked loaf of bread.)
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. whipped cream cheese
1 c. queso Oaxaca, shredded (mozzarella is an excellent substitution here)
1 tsp. garlic, ground
1/2 c. green onion, diced
1 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
To prepare the soup, heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot over a medium flame. Add the onions and sauté for a good 4 minutes, or until the onions are caramel-colored and fragrant. Add the peas, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, chipotle and oregano and sauté for another 4-5 minutes, stirring often. After 5 minutes add the water and bay leaves and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes remove the cover, stir in the cream, and return to a vigorous boil. Cook for an additional 40 minutes or until the peas are tender, stirring often to keep any of the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove the finished soup from heat and serve immediately or store for up to 4 days, covered, in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, to prepare the bread, preheat the oven to 325°. Cut your loaf in half vertically and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, cream cheese, shredded cheese, garlic, green onion and black pepper, mixing until thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture onto the cut sides of each half of your loaf. Bake for approximately 20 minutes. I opted to broil the bread for the last 4-5 minutes, but this is optional. Slice and serve immediately.
YIELD: approximately 4-6 servings of both soup and cheese bread