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Prepare garlic croutons: Remove crusts from bread slices and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. In a small skillet, melt butter with the oil over medium heat. Add garlic and bread cubes. Cook, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes, until croutons are golden brown and fragrant. Transfer the croutons to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. For the soup: Put the ham hock into a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onion and celery. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until onion is softened. Add split peas and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add ham hock and stock and season with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring often, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until split peas are very tender, adding additional stock if the soup seems too thick. Transfer the ham hock to a plate and set aside. In a food processor or blender, puree the soup in batches. Pour the soup through a strainer set over a large bowl, pressing hard on the solids with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. When cool enough to handle, remove all the lean pieces of ham and finely dice them. Put soup and cream into a large saucepan, season with salt and pepper if necessary, and reheat. ladle the soup into bowls and top with the diced ham and garlic croutons. NOTES : Reprinted in The Sacramento Bee January 14, 1998 Recipe by: "Comfort Food: Soup" by Charles Pierce Posted to recipelu-digest Volume 01 Number 527 by Crane Walden
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