It's a well-established fact that I'm obsessed with sweet peas. When they're in season and at their sweetest, it's not unusual for me to sneak a few raw peas as a snack to fortify myself when I’m shelling a big pile of pods.
Lest you think I’m totally lacking in manners, I do cook my peas most of the time, if only because they’re far sweeter even with just a few minutes on the heat.
(That said, I’m not entirely crazy, either. Raw sweet peas in the shell are currently one of the starters on the menu at Michelin-starred St John in London, though I’m pretty sure they serve theirs with far more panache than I do.)
This dish is one of my favourites at this time of year. It’s a classic in French cuisine, where it’s often called simply "petits pois a la francaise" (ie. “sweet peas, French style”).
Neither of its names particularly does it justice, though, because they honestly don’t capture how well this dish captures the essence of summer. The peas are tender and sweet, while the lettuce, which is just barely wilted using residual heat, adds another layer of sweetness to the whole. Not to mention that all those different shades of green all tumbled together in the same dish make it awfully pretty to look at.
Some recipes I’ve seen use little braising liquid, just enough to barely coat the peas with a glossy sheen, while others go for an almost-stewlike sort of consistency. Personally, I lean towards the latter because I like to have a little sauce to mop up with a bit of crusty bread at the end, but feel free to use only 2 tsp of flour and ¾ cup chicken broth (or water, if you prefer a vegetarian version) if you’re not a saucy gal like me.
Quick Tip: If you can't find fresh sweet peas, go ahead and use frozen peas instead. Because they're flash frozen almost immediately after being picked, they're often sweeter and more tender than the fresh ones anyways.
Braised Sweet Peas with Lettuce
4 tbsp butter, divided
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or water
2 cups shelled fresh sweet peas
1/2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper (or more, to taste)
2 cups shredded butter or bibb lettuce
In a large heavy-bottomed skillet set over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp of the butter until foamy. Add the green onions and thyme, and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until the green onion start to soften.
Add the flour and remaining 2 tbsp butter, and cook for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the stock and bring to a boil. Add the peas, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 4-5 minutes or until the peas are bright green and tender.
Stir in the lettuce, then remove from heat and let stand for another minute or so, or until the lettuce has wilted. Adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper, if needed, and serve immediately.