Wednesday, May 16, 2018

French-Style Braised Lettuce and Peas

French-Style Braised Lettuce and Peas

Cream and mint add pizzazz to this traditional dish

A classic French dish that’s quick and easy? Mais oui!

This duet of lettuce and peas makes a perfect starter or side. So serve up the flavor without the fuss.



French-Style Braised Lettuce and Peas

Recipe: French-Style Braised Lettuce and Peas

This dish is best when made with fresh peas. But local peas are only available in our markets for a few weeks of the year. So we generally use frozen. That’s OK, though – frozen peas offer excellent quality. And they’re often actually “fresher” than “fresh” peas because they’ve been processed within hours of being picked (no sitting in a produce bin for days).

Some chefs cook this dish in water or stock, then finish it with butter, cream, or crème fraiche. We skip the water and cook the dish entirely in cream. That adds wonderful flavor and, when reduced, provides a nice sauce. (We got our inspiration for this method from Bert Greene’s recipe for Wilted Peas and Lettuce in Greene on Greens.)

Traditional recipes call for using small pearl onions in this dish (and we discuss that option in the Notes). But we prefer to use shallots or scallions – they have wonderful flavor and are easier to use.

We like to serve this dish as a starter, but it also works as a side.

Prep time for this recipe is about 10 minutes. It serves 4.

Leftovers keep for a day or two if refrigerated in an airtight container.

Ingredients
  • 1 largish head Boston Bibb lettuce (or 2 smaller heads; see Notes for alternatives)
  • 1 to 2 shallots or 1 bunch of scallions (see Notes if you prefer to use pearl onions)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups frozen green peas (see Notes if using fresh)
  • ~½ cup mint leaves, tightly packed (may substitute another herb of choice; see Notes)
  • salt to taste (a few pinches of kosher salt for us; see Notes)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste (a few grinds for us)
  • mint sprigs for garnish (optional)

Procedure
  1. Wash the lettuce and tear it into bite-size pieces.
  2. If using shallots, peel them and cut them into rounds. If using scallions, wash them and cut off the root ends; slice the white and light-green parts into rounds.
  3. Place a large frying pan over medium stovetop heat. Add the butter to the pan. When the butter is melted, add the chopped shallots or scallions. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes (don’t let them brown).
  4. Add the cream. Cook until it reduces by about one third (4 minutes or so).
  5. Add the lettuce and peas. Cook them in the cream until the lettuce is wilted, the peas are tender, and the cream has reduced to a heavy coating (3 to 4 minutes).
  6. Meanwhile, wash and chop the mint leaves.
  7. When the peas and lettuce are cooked (Step 5), add salt and black pepper to taste. Add the mint, then stir to combine.
  8. Dish up on serving plates, adding sprigs of mint for garnish if you wish. Serve and enjoy.
French-Style Braised Lettuce and Peas

Notes
  • Ingredient quantities can be somewhat flexible in this dish, so adjust if necessary.
  • You could skip the shallot or scallions if you want, but the dish won’t taste nearly as good. We prefer shallots to scallions in this recipe, but only slightly.
  • James Peterson (in his book Vegetables) says he first encountered this dish in the 1970s, when he was working in a restaurant in France. He says the chef cooked the peas until they were greyish green and very soft. But Julia Child, in the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, recommends cooking them for a much shorter length of time.
  • We prefer more vibrant-looking (and tasting) peas, so we cook them just until done (as Julia does). That’s one reason to use frozen peas, BTW. They’ll be done in a couple of minutes.
  • If using fresh peas: Shell them and cook them in water or chicken stock until just done. You can do this ahead of time (just remove them from the heat and shock them in iced water to stop the cooking). Then when preparing the dish, substitute cooked peas for frozen in Step 5.
  • When Peterson prepares this dish, he likes to use cooked bacon bits as garnish. 
  • Peterson also uses the traditional pearl onions in this dish instead of shallots or scallions (Julia does, too). If you go this route, you’ll need about 20 pearls. Peel them (frozen ones are already peeled) and heat a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan. Add the onions to the pan, along with a bit of sugar. Then add just enough water to come halfway up the onions. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the onions are tender. You can do this ahead of time, too.
  • We like to use a butter lettuce, such as Boston Bibb, in this dish. Little Gem (aka Sweet Gem) is also good.
  • Use enough lettuce to equal one largish Boston Bibb lettuce head (about 7 inches across).
  • Prefer not to tear the lettuce into pieces? If using two small heads of lettuce, you can cut each head into halves instead. If using one large head, cut it into quarters. If you’re going this route, add the lettuce to the frying pan (Step 5) a couple of minutes before adding the peas to give the lettuce a chance to wilt.
  • As noted, you don’t have to cook this dish in cream (though we highly recommend it). If you prefer, you could cook the lettuce and peas in about 1/3 cup of chicken stock or water. Then finish the dish with a tablespoon of cream or crème fraiche.
  • Peas and mint go together like, well, peas and carrots. But you can substitute fresh thyme, parsley, or basil for the mint if you like. Or use any other fresh herb that you think would taste good (it probably will).
  • We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the flakes are bigger, so it packs less densely in a measure). If using table salt, start with about half as much as we suggest. But, as always, season to your taste, not ours.
French-Style Braised Lettuce and Peas

Lettuce Now Praise Famous Peas

“Sacré bleu,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This dish is cream of the crop.”

“Yup,” I said. “With this on the menu, our dinner is in mint condition.”

“So what shallot be?” asked Mrs K R. “A starter or a side?”

“Starter,” I said. “The other side veggies would be overshadowed by this dish.”

“True,” said Mrs K R. “They’d be greens with envy.”

Peas and love!

You may also enjoy reading about:
Italian Celery and Mushroom Salad
Shaved Artichoke and Mushroom Salad
Summer Pea Soup with Mint
Asparagus with Savory Whipped Cream
Sautéed Cucumbers
Summer Green-Bean Salad
Hungarian Cucumber Salad
Or check out the index for more

53 comments:

  1. Good recipe choice! I just made my modified version of this the other day. I've morphed it into a salad -- I put the frozen peas in a pyrex measuring cup, cover them with water, and microwave until they are un-frozen. Then I add them to a butter lettuce salad with fresh and/or dried herbs like parsley, cilantro, mint. I think I prefer the lettuce crisp rather than wilted.

    You remind me: I'll have to add pearl onions the next time, as you say.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mae, I should try it your way -- a lot easier! Good dish, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  2. What pretty green colour and delicious flavour! I would have never thought of braising lettuce...a great idea, John.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Angie, braised lettuce is good stuff! It's fun to stir-fry it, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  3. I love peas and usually just eat them on their own--thank you for giving me another way to enjoy them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kelsie, this makes a nice starter for a dinner party -- something a bit different. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  4. I love green peas and are always thankful for new recipes. Thanks John! As a child in Germany it was my job to shell them, buckets full so my mom could freeze them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Gerlinde, truly fresh peas are wonderful! You'll like this recipe, I'll bet -- really neat flavor. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  5. I've never had a dish like this before. It looks wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Pam, it IS wonderful! :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  6. I've never had this dish! Nor have I ever had peas with mint. It sounds like fantastic fair-weather food!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jeff, peas and mint is a fantastic combo -- you really should give it a try. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  7. A bien un peu de français aujourd'hui lol? Love this recipe, very unique with lettuce and a sauce. And yes fresh peas are the best. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Evelyne, just a soupçon. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  8. I've only put mint in drinks, I need to be adventurous and try this. I've seen similar recipes and you make it sound delicious, John! Bet the cream makes all the difference in the world as far as looks and taste go. Thanks for the recipe, it's a must try!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Pam, mint and peas is a terrific combo -- you'd enjoy it, I think. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  9. Love this "new to me" recipe! Many years ago I made a casserole that included cooked lettuce. Not many people think about eating it any other way than raw. I will need to try this lovely recipe - it sounds delicious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tricia, lettuce is a whole 'nother animal when cooked. Well, not animal, but you know what I mean. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  10. My mom used to make peas in a cream sauce. It was one of her favorites. I love your version, too! Perfect for spring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Liz, this really is a great springtime dish, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  11. You have turned an ordinary side dish into a pretty blend of colours and flavours. A dish definitely worth creating 8)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Merryn, this is so nice -- loaded with flavor. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  12. This is brilliant John. I have only made sautéed romaine in a garlic chili stir fry but have never tried it creamed with with peas. Perfect way to celebrate all the deliciousness of spring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Bobbi, I remember your romaine stir-fry -- so good looking! This is, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  13. Such a gorgeous spring recipe! All that green! A wonderful way to use some of my mint. It has recovered from winter and is thriving again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Deb, we have to keep cutting back our mint otherwise it'd take over our yard! :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  14. Love creamy dressings. This green salads looks magnificent!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Denise, it has terrific flavor -- neat dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  15. Beautiful dish!! I love peas and always look for new ways to prepare them. This is a dish I haven't tried yet. I'm so excited to get this on my dinner table!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dahn, this is SO good! You'll like. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  16. Hi John,
    Peas have a short growing season here as well but, thankfully, frozen peas are an excellent choice when fresh aren't available.

    This dish sings to me as we are all awaiting the arrival of Spring. What a welcome dish. I like the combination of Julia's and James Peterson suggestions. Although, Bert Greene's Wilted Peas are not to be forgotten:)

    Thank you so much for sharing John...well wishes to you and Mrs. K.R. things are moving along around here, albeit slowly but one day at a time seems to be the way to go around here:)

    Have a GREAT Summer John!!! Actually, let's begin those well wishes with a fresh and enlightening Spring first!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Louise, good to hear from you! Glad you're doing pretty well. I know you are a Bert Greene lover, so you'll really like this recipe. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  17. hi KR
    I make a similar dish but i have it as a soup. very delish! cheers sherry

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sherry, love the idea of a soup version of this! I'm SO stealing that idea. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  18. Ages ago I made this recipe from a French cookbook and was a bit skeptical about how it would turn out. I mean, braised lettuce?!! but it was wonderful, and I'm wondering why I've forgotten about it! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Mimi, you're welcome. :-) This is a terrific dish, isn't it? One that deserves to be better known in the US. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  19. What an interesting dish and so pretty! I've never had this before but will try it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Vicki, it's a sensational dish -- you'll enjoy it. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  20. John, it's been far too long since I've had this dish, and I like your version even more already! Shallots for me, please!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jean, shallots really add some nice flavor to this dish! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  21. I really do love me some slightly wilted greens so this recipe right here has my taste buds excited!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi GiGI, it IS an exciting dish! :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  22. Cooked lettuce never gets enough credit. I always shell my own peas. It's so relaxing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Laura, shelling peas is pretty relaxing, isn't it? And it's easy as, well, shelling peas. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  23. Forget side dish. I'd eat this as the main course. Totally gorgeous and totally, totally decadently good. Putting this on my must try list!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Abbe, you really do need to try this. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  24. Peas and mint are indeed monochrome perfect partners. However, this recipe intrigues far beyond its color palate because braised lettuce seems so sophisticated! GREG

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Greg, we don't braise lettuce all that often, and when we do wonder why we don't braise it more often. It's good stuff! :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  25. For all the times my husband and I have traveled to France, this is a dish I've never had. I must give it a try.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Karen, you'll love this! Totally good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  26. This sounds like spring personified. And who doesn't love anything cooked in cream? ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Carolyn, cream is pretty hard to resist! At least that's what Kitty Riffs always tells us. :-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  27. We had some wonderful fresh peas in a salad last night. Hope the grocer still has some because I'd love to make this dish! Very unusual dish for me but something I know both Bobby and I would love. Thanks John! I hope to try it soon!

    ReplyDelete