Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Peas In Our Time

A true confession: I blew this one tonight. We did it last weekend, and it was of those dishes that transcended at least two of my senses, but tonight...not so much. Part of the problem was just the peas. Peas are one of those things that are heavenly for about a week out of the year, after which they become fodder, and this week's peas are just not the same as last week's peas, and moreover, we did them no favors by making the dish two fucking days after they were bought and shelled. (Yes, that is in fact shame I feel—I was brought up better than this—but it may not be too late for my dear mom, who didn't even manage to plant the things until May, which is the main reason I am writing this down.) But even worse was knowing that I just munged up the balance of things.

I should point out that we basically copied a recipe we had in New York way back in May, at Eataly, and merely put the peas and mint on the outside instead of in the filling. I suppose in the city that never sleeps, you can get some quality legumes overnighted from a few states down if you have the culinary pull. We were stuck waiting until they came ready in north central Massachusetts, but fresher is always better anyway. Here in ____, we also have a tremendous Italian population, but evidently not an impressive Eatalian one, and after at least three remarkably craptastic ethnic restaurant adventures, we gave up on 'em almost a decade ago. And so we were completely and pleasantly surprised to have discovered a little old lady with a good pasta shop in town. We made the dish with a combination of her gnocchi and cheese-filled ravioli, which all I had to do was not screw up. Making me one for two, I guess. If you make this, go with the nicest fresh pasta you can make or get your hands on.

My wife tells me that we have had the combination of peas and mint before, and it's both natural and obvious, she says. To me, it seemed revelatory in May, and then even better eight days ago. The nuttiness (a food adjective I find annoying) of the brown butter pushes the sweet and aromatic, the vegetable and salt and toast together like a seventh predicts the tonic. When it's good, it's very very good. My advice, just don't fuck it up.

The ingredients:

  • about 1-2 c. fresh peas, shelled. (Look, I am not a farmer, but I am a glutton, and grew up with people who cared about this sort of thing. If they're touching in the pods, it's no doubt too late, and if the skins of the pods are thinned and dry, it's really too late. But you know, just taste them. They will be that good.)
  • about 1 lb. fresh cheese pasta. (Best you can get your hands on. Maybe you make pasta. If so, now would be the time. I'm horrified to think of Marie Callender clodhopping the toes of this fine little dance. Find a real old lady.)
  • about 3/4 c. finely grated fresh parmesan cheese. (Here I am not a zealot. Yet.)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • about 2-3 T. mint chiffonade. (I wish I knew the variety in the herb garden that's Mom's mint. Probably not spearmint, certainly not peppermint, and definitely not the ridiculous furry "apple" crap that is taking over everything. It's just "mint." It also makes outstanding mojitos. Maybe I'll write that one up this weekend, if it's a good one.)
  • couple twists of pepper.

    So salt your water, and boil your pasta, like you are supposed to. Don't overcook it. I have heard that gnocchi, if you go that way, can be a little sensitive, or something like that. Don't know where I got that idea. I did not find it critical to time the pasta (it finished a little before), and while I sure didn't rinse it, I removed it, and did not any of the water to make up the sauce. Just butter and cheese.

    Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then raise the heat to medium-high and cook the butter until it foams and just starts to brown. Pull it off and reduce the heat. Add the peas and mint, and cover for a minute or two, not past "warm" on your cooling burner. Stir in the cheese and pepper. Then gently toss or fold the pasta. Garnish with a sprig of mint, if you're so motivated.


    Michael said...

    Have a look at Google's Doodle Page today.

    The whole world has gone Pea Crazy!

    Keifus said...

    Peas, brother. If only I had added some hominy.

    And don't look at me, I posted this yesterday. Obviously Google's stalking me.

    bright said...

    International Fiddle Competition!

    Keifus said...

    DePue? Are they related to Pepe?