I must confess I was never a big fan of peas growing up. I used to pick peas out of fried rice dishes or assorted vegetable stir-fry dishes. It was only lately that I've had a conversion and decided to give peas a chance.
We bought from the market a humongous box of peas still in their pods three years ago. We had to shell them. With that experience, I've come to realize an appreciation for these pea-ses of sweet freshness.
Once, a long time ago, when Nigella was still in her apartment setting, she made braised romaine. From what I remember, it was a very simple dish, just the lettuce braised in some chicken stock with aromatics. I filed this dish in my head for future reference.
I like romaine raw, but I find them even lovelier cooked. The heat adds a whole other dimension to the lettuce, releasing their sweetness with just a hint of smokiness. Stir-fried romaine lettuce, with garlic, is honestly quite fantastic. In fact, I think the reason I let our romaine get slightly past its prime for salads is so we can stir-fry them instead.
Recently, we saw Eric Ripert on the Martha Stewart Show doing a very French braised lettuce and peas dish. It seemed simple and easy enough to do and I filed it for future reference as well.
We were thinking of another vegetable dish for Mama's birthday bash. We wanted something relatively easy to do. We can't really stir-fry vegetables in our house: we just do not get that stir-fry sheen on our vegetables nor do we ever achieve that "breath of the wok" flavor. They're never like those in Chinese restaurants and we've given up on the idea.
In typical indecisive fashion, we couldn't make up our minds on the second veggie dish. (We had already decided on the string beans for our first vegetable.) It was getting close to crunch time. Not having decided, we had not shopped for this second vegetable. We had romaine hearts in the fridge and we had peas in the freezer.
Et voilà, braised romaine and peas.
I consulted one of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks, since he probably had a braised romaine and peas dish hiding somewhere. True enough, he had a braised peas dish with spring onions and butter lettuce. I was sure I can use the same technique with romaine.
Enough of the provenance of the dish and onto the the dish itself.
Braised Romaine and Peas
Very simple to do. The first step is to create a roux with butter and flour. Then add garlic, depending on how garlicky you wanted the dish. We like ours to be quite garlicky so I must have added about 6 cloves of garlic.
In goes the lettuce, a little bit of chicken stock (or water). After the lettuce wilts down and makes some room in the pot, the peas goes in. Season everything of course. Add any herbs you like. In our case, I added some thyme from the garden. The lettuce will give out a lot of moisture, so if using water, do not add a lot as it will dilute all flavour.
That really is about it.
Improvements to be made to this dish when we make it the next time: This dish will be a lot better if the whole head of romaine was used and not just the hearts. The green leaves have most of the flavour, the white not so much. But we only had romaine hearts, so we had to cook with whatever's there.
It was quite a satisfying dish, and it was quite popular with one toddler who was drinking the broth created by the vegetables. The dish was very, very good, for something so unassuming. It really was the Plain Jane of the spread, and I think a lot of people bypassed the dish because it did not look "sexy" enough.
I thought it was actually THE discovery in the whole menu!
We don't usually cook with recipes, but here is more or less what happened.
Braised Romaine and Peas
(adapted from "Braised peas with spring onions and lettuce" in Cook with Jamie)
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon flour
6 cloves garlic (the original recipe calls for 6 spring onions, white parts sliced thinly)
a few sprigs of thyme
2 romaine hearts (or use 1 whole head of romaine lettuce; the original recipe called for the lettuce to be sliced. We kept ours more or less whole)
2 cups frozen peas (fresh would be nice, of course)
1 cup chicken stock (or 1/2 cup water)
salt and pepper
Heat pan. Make a roux: Add butter and olive oil. When melted, add the flour. Stir until combined and a nice light golden color. Pour in the stock (or water) and stir or whisk.
Add garlic, herbs and romaine. After about 5 minutes, when the romaine has wilted, add peas. If using fresh peas, they probably need to be added with the romaine so they have more time to cook. Cover and cook until tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning (salt and pepper). Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice just before serving.
We're submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food blogging event created by Kalyn's Kitchen celebrating herbs, vegetables, or flowers.
If you'd like to participate, see who's hosting next week. WHB is hosted this week by Kalyn (herself!) of Kalyn's Kitchen.
We started blogging about food almost by chance. We never thought there would be such a rich variety of outstanding food blogs out there and that there would be such a sense of community. This is our first attempt at joining a food blog event. =)