I am able to admit when I’m wrong. Granted, it tends to be difficult because I’m so out of practice, but it does happen sometimes. And once I get past the shortness of breath and tame my fight-or-flight response, I can own it.
Thus, I can say calmly and with no shame: I WAS WRONG ABOUT THE MUSHY PEAS.
I mean, you can’t really blame me for being down on the mushy peas, can you? One, anything with “mushy” in the name is doubtful; people don’t usually call something “mushy” in a positive way.
“That roast chicken was delicious; the breasts were really mushy!”
“I totally blasted my quads at the gym today; feel how mushy they are!”*
Two, peas. Even at their best, when it’s springtime and you can find them fresh, they’re merely tolerable. I do salute frozen peas for making excellent icepacks for a sore knee, but otherwise, they can stay in the freezer. Every few weeks, Brian will bust out his awesome spaghetti carbonara and then desecrate it with peas. I always let them sink to the bottom of the bowl and then pawn them off on him.
He loves peas. He also thinks melba toast is a tasty snack and likes pickled herring, so you know: can’t be trusted.
*To be fair, I don’t know if this is something people say at all.
As we all know, Bad Thing + Bad Thing does not = Good Thing unless we’re talking about Velveeta and Ro-Tel, the commonly known “Queso Aberration.” Still, Brian has had a hankering for mushy peas, and I live to please. I decided to make the mushy peas more passable by pairing them with a lovely hunk of pan-seared striped bass and some duck fat-fried potatoes.
I asked the internet whether I should use mint in the mushy peas, which I’d thought was traditional; the internet said, variously, “No,” “Yes,” and “Why make peas at all?”* One internet denizen asked if I was making them with dried marrowfat peas, to which I respond, “What the hell are those?”
*That’s my kind of internet.
My mushy peas were made with frozen peas and, yes, mint. I sauteed a minced shallot in some butter, then poured in a bit of chicken stock and a bag of peas. By the time the peas were heated through, the chicken stock had mostly cooked off, so I dumped the pot into the FoPro and added a little heavy cream, fresh mint, lemon zest and salt.
I whizzed ‘em until they were half pureed and half rough chunks, kinda like what the dogs vomit up after we take them to the park for the first time in spring and they eat all the grass. Not that I have any preconceived notions about the mushy peas.
I tasted the mix to check for seasoning, and I’ll say it again: I WAS WRONG ABOUT THE MUSHY PEAS. Mushy peas somehow become more than the sum of their parts. The cream enhances their natural sweetness, and the lemon and mint add a freshness that was more than welcome on an unusually warm March evening. Even better were the peas paired with the fish; I know fried fish is more traditional, but I loved the lightness of the pan-seared fish with the mildness and creamy texture of the peas.
Now I challenge you: What have you never made because it sounded kinda gross? Go forth and cook, and report back to us. There will be a quiz.
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced
1 10oz. bag frozen peas (English peas or petits pois) are best
1/3 c. chicken or veg stock
zest of 1/2 a lemon
6-8 fresh mint leaves
2 tbsp. heavy cream
salt to taste
Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Dump in the stock and let it come to a simmer, then add the peas. Toss ‘em around for a few minutes until the stock is mostly gone and the peas are heated through and a nice bright green.
Transfer the peas to a FoPro and add the zest, mint, heavy cream and a pinch of salt; pulse 6 or 7 times to get things nice and loose. Check the seasoning, add more salt if needed, and pulse a few more times; there should still be some whole and only partially broken-down peas.
If you don’t have a FoPro or like a chunkier texture, you can also do this by hand with a potato masher.
Serve immediately, with a nice piece of fish.