Peas Braised with Scallions and Lettuce

Here is my riff on a French classic. Although the lettuce may seem an odd thing to include, it really does work here. This recipe is more of a guideline really, as cooking times will depend a lot on the peas. There are many versions of this recipe, and here is one more. The only thing to really watch out for is overcooking the peas, so taste one every few minutes, and when they are almost done, add the lettuce to finish off. This recipe is for 2 cups/2 pounds of peas, which gives a good sized portion to each person. The recipe varies easily enough, so base amounts on the volume of peas you have.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups shelled peas (around 1 pound per cup shelled)
1/2 head butter lettuce, leaves separated and cleaned
6 scallions, green parts only, sliced thinly on the diagonal
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup water

METHOD:

Split the lettuce leaves through the main rib, or stack the leaves and slice across 1/2 inch strips.

Over medium heat, melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan. When it stops foaming, add the scallions. Cook just until wilted.

Add the sugar and stir in, and then season with salt and pepper. Add the water and bring to a simmer.

Add the peas and stir to coat the peas with the seasonings. Cover and cook at a gentle simmer, tossing periodically to ensure even cooking, until almost done. Taste frequently so you can keep track of this. The peas could take as little as 10 minutes and as many as 20.

When the peas are almost done, add the lettuce. Cook just to wilt the lettuce. Remove the vegetables to a bowl, and if the liquid in the bottom of the pot is more than a couple spoonsful, cook to reduce it so it thickens enough to cling to the vegetables. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

This is not a dish that keeps, so serve right away.

Chef’s Notes and Tips:

If you wish, you can cut the head of lettuce into wedges through the root, leaving a little of the base intact so it holds the leaves together. Rinse these wedges well in several changes of water, and add them a little sooner to the pot, gently pushing them into the peas a little so they cook more readily and get sauced better. When the vegetables are done, remove the lettuce wedges first and put them around the edge of the serving vessel, then add the peas and scallions to the center, and then pour the pan sauce over all. Mint goes wonderfully with peas, and you could sliver some and add it just before the lettuce. Whatever you do, don’t cook the mint for more than 8 minutes or you find it had become bitter. A ½ teaspoon of thyme would go well with this dish also. Just remember you want to go light with the seasonings and not drown out the flavor of the peas.