From the Chronicle Kitchen
Seasons in the Wine Country
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Minted English Pea Soup
Peas and mint are a traditional spring duo, here brought together with the slight tartness and body of the crème fraîche. Unless you or a friend grow your own peas or you can nab some as they come into the farmers’ market, good brands of frozen organic peas are often the better choice, as the sugars in fresh peas turn very quickly to starch. This soup serves about 1 cup per portion and can easily be doubled. For the peas, you will need about 4 pounds in the shell or two 10-ounce packages of frozen peas.
For an elegant match, try to find a lightly oaked or unoaked Chardonnay to complement the clean, fresh flavors.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion (about 4 ounces), cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or as needed
1/8 teaspoon white pepper, or as needed
1 quart shelled peas, fresh or frozen
16 mint leaves (8 roughly chopped, 8 reserved for garnish)
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
1/4 cup crème fraîche
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
1. In a large, deep skillet or stock pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and sweat them until translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the stock, salt, and pepper, increase the heat to medium high, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Add the peas, chopped mint, and parsley to the stock and bring the liquid back to a simmer. Simmer until peas turn a bright green and are tender, about 5 minutes.
4. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl. With an immersion or in a stand blender, purée the soup until smooth. You may need to do this in batches (see Chef’s Note). Pour the puréed soup into the sieve (you can batch this as well). With the back of a large spoon, push the liquid through the solids into the bowl.
5. Wipe clean the original pan. Pour the soup back into it and gently rewarm over medium-low heat. Add the crème fraîche and stir well to blend. Immediately remove from the heat, adjust seasonings as necessary, and pour the soup into small soup bowls. Garnish each bowl with 2 mint leaves and serve each bowl with 2 lemon wedges, for guests to squeeze into soup as desired.
When puréeing hot liquids in a stand blender, be sure to remove the plug from the blender’s top and cover the hole with a kitchen towel. This allows for the steam from puréeing hot liquids to escape.
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