This is one of my favorite holiday side dishes. I have been making it steadily since 2004 when the recipe appeared in the Thanksgiving issue of Food and Wine Magazine. Aside from the traditional holiday menus that include oven-roasted turkeys and big ol' hams, the peas are spectacular all year long with Danny's Beer Butt Chicken, and tortellini tossed with my basil pesto. The dish also pairs quite beautifully with Beef Bourguignon.
I have modified the recipe over the years to make it even easier to prepare. The author, Grace Parisi, calls for frying most of the leeks as a garnish, which sounds like a great idea. However, much as I have tried, I cannot get the leeks to crisp properly and I dislike cleaning the stove after the frying. I now sauté the leeks and don't bother to garnish the final dish unless I already have some minced parsley on hand to shower over the top. I did flirt with the idea last year of making spiralized crispy onions to sprinkle on top of the dish, but I was too busy and directed my attention elsewhere. Such is the life of a hostess; always mentally computing what to add or discard to a recipe, to a menu, to a table setting. With or without a garnish, this simple, satisfying recipe is delicious.
|You can substitute dried thyme if fresh isn't available.
The night before Thanksgiving I forgot to move the peas from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw overnight. When I discovered my mistake the next morning, I simply made the transition at that time. In the late afternoon when I was ready to prepare the peas, the little green globes were still slightly frozen. Fortunately the recipe worked perfectly.
To add a buffer into my meal prep timeline, I prefer to make the recipe through step three and then let the sauce sit on the stove top up to an hour until I'm ready to cook the peas. About 15 minutes before dinner is ready I quickly finish the dish which allows the peas to retain their bright green hue.
I don't mind having leftover peas as they reheat nicely on the stove top. I add a splash of cream or half and half to the peas in a saucepan and turn the heat to medium low. Alternatively, leftover creamed peas are quite delicious added as a layer in Shepard's Pie.
The quantities for this preparation will easily serve 10 to 12 guests. Of course, you can halve the ingredients for a smaller gathering.
12-ounce package thick-cut bacon
2 medium or 1 large leek, white and tender green parts only
1 Tbsp thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried
1-1/2 cups rich turkey stock or low-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 cup heavy cream
30-ounces frozen baby peas, thawed or semi-thawed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp water
minced parsley, optional
reserved bacon, sprinkled over the top
|Clean sliced leeks in a water bath and then dry well with a kitchen towel.
1. Wash the leek(s) well and pat dry. Slice lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/4-inch thick half moons. Add the sliced leeks to a medium bowl filled with water. Agitate the leeks to remove dirt and then let sit for a few minutes so that the dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl. With a slotted spoon or skimmer, remove the leeks to a kitchen towel and pat dry. This can be done earlier in the day. Refrigerate the leeks until ready to sauté.
2. Remove the bacon from the refrigerator and immediately cut the cold bacon crosswise into 1/4- to 1/3-inch batons. In a large, deep skillet, cook the bacon over low to medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels. Pour most of the bacon fat into a glass or ceramic container, leaving about 3 to 4 tablespoons of bacon fat in the skillet.
3. Add the prepared leeks to the bacon fat, sprinkle with a little sea salt and cook over moderately low heat until the leeks are softened, about 10 minutes. Add 3/4 cup of the rich turkey stock or chicken broth and cook over moderate heat until it is reduced by half, about 7 minutes. Add the heavy cream and cook over moderately high heat until it is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. At this point you can turn off the burner and let the mixture sit for up to an hour until you are ready to finish the dish.
|No worries...the peas can be mostly frozen when added to the pan.