Old Dominion Peanut Soup with Crispy Country Ham
2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups smooth peanut butter
1-3/4 cups light cream
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 slices Virginia country ham
Peanuts, finely chopped, for garnish
Thyme sprigs, for garnish
In a large saucepan over medium heat, sweat celery and onions briefly and add butter, cooking until celery and onions become translucent; do not brown the butter. Add flour and stir until blended. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, stirring occasionally, and allow to slightly reduce, about 15 minutes.
Through a sieve, transfer contents to a large bowl, pressing hard against the solids in the sieve with the back of a spoon. Return liquid to the saucepan and heat on low. Add peanut butter and cream and stir constantly until blended. Add white pepper.
Cut the Virginia country ham into julienne strips; retain half for garnish and cut half into brunoise or small dice. Add the small dice to the soup. Stir and heat about five minutes. While the soup is heating, place the remaining ham strips in a sauté pan over medium heat and cook, stirring to prevent burning, until crispy. Drain on paper towels.
Serve soup and garnish with crispy country ham strips, chopped peanuts and a thyme sprig.
Read more of HRMs food editor Chef Patrick Evans-Hyltons adventures in food on his blog, www.PatrickEvansHylton.com