Green pea pie

Whether it tasted good or not, I was madly in love with the name. Green Pea Pie. Doesn’t that sound absolutely delightful?

So, of course, I had to make it.

The recipe is from John Thorne’s book A Serious Pig: An American Cook in Search of His Roots. (Click here to read a chapter from the book. The man writes like a dream, don’t you think? And click here to go to his Website.)

It is merely a pie filled with tiny, frozen, green peas laced with shallots and tarragon or parsley. His version requires you to briefly saute the shallots in a 1/4 cup of chicken fat before adding them to the pie (the peas are added frozen). I didn’t have chicken fat in the house, and certainly didn’t want it in my dinner, so I fried up some bacon instead.

(I know, I know, bacon isn’t much better. But it doesn’t seem as nasty, does it?)

I added the bacon to the frozen peas then used the leftover bacon fat to saute the shallots. I added the shallots to the peas, dumped the veg and bacon mixture into a pie crust, topped it with more pie crust, and baked the whole thing for half an hour at about 375.

The peas and shallots were delicious. But the bacon added nothing - no real taste to speak of. So it cost us a lot of calories without giving us a lot of taste. What a waste.

Last night, I made the pie again. Only, this time, I sauteed the shallots in a dab of butter. No bacon, no bacon grease, and no chicken fat. And I can’t tell you how truly scrumptious this is.

Now, if only I could do something about the fat in the pastry dough. Sigh.
Green Pea Pie; my version
Preheat the oven to 375. Saute 7 - 8 roughly chopped shallots until soft. You can do so in butter, but next time I plan to try olive oil. I also plan to sprinkle in some minced, dried porcini to see what this does to the flavor.

Add the cooked shallots to the frozen green peas and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chopped fresh tarragon. Dump this into a frozen pie shell and top with another frozen pie shell. Forty minutes should be about right (you can tell it is done when the pastry dough feels dry and crisp, as opposed to wet, and is golden brown).

It is messy to serve with peas spilling out of the pie and the odd escapee skittering across the counter (watch it, or it will hide somewhere and you will have a nasty surprise next time you actually clean behind the blender), but it is really delicious and you will feel incredibly virtuous eating all those peas.
Tips:
  • Dried porcini in any form - reconstituted by soaking in a bit of warm water for 20 minutes or so or ground or minced and used as a spice - is a blessing in an almost vegetarian kitchen because it adds that rich taste you usually associate with meat. By this, I don’t mean to say that it tastes like meat, because it does not, but that it gives food a heartier flavor that can be difficult to get with just veg. I find tomato paste can do this, too.
  • Fresh tarragon is a bitch to deal with; There is just no other way to describe it. To get the leaves of all those stems (and there are a lot of bloody stems) you have to hold the top of the stem with two fingers of one hand, then run two fingers of the other hand - I tend to use my thumb and forefinger - gently down the stem to break the leaves off. Of course, if you have nothing but young, tender stems, you can just chop them up with the leaves and call it a day. But I always seem to get mostly little twigs which are too tough to eat. When I can’t bear it, I just use Herbes de Provence instead. This is an incredibly fragrant mix of dried savory, fennel, thyme, rosemary, and lavender.
  • Pastry dough is loaded, just loaded, with fat. Butter, shortening, lard ... it depends on the recipe from whence it springs. But whatever it is, think cholesterol. Which means my next incarnation of this may skip the pastry dough altogether in favor of sauteed shallots with frozen peas add at the last minute (we don’t want to turn the peas to mush; only to heat them through) and served on top of rice. Not the same, of course, but this is how I am looking at recipes now: Always striving to make them healthier, easier, tastier. I suspect I am not alone in this.