Should peas be pampered or punished in the pan?

The controversy continues over how long to cook them, and I'm caught ranting about it on tape

Published May 6, 2010 4:40PM (EDT)


It's important to have friends, real friends, the kind who will let you lay your troubles on them, who will endure your most furious rants with patience and love. It's questionable, though, if you want those friends to be doing that with the mike turned on and broadcasting your angry, angry screeds wantonly across the Internet, which is exactly what Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton have done to me. About peas.

Screw peas. I hate peas. Peas are bullshit. I'm sick of people getting all foodie-orgasmatron over their Beautiful Spring Peas, bought just last week at the farmer's market. Because those peas were amazing raw when they were picked, and were probably still pretty awesome just warmed through later that day … but after a couple of days in the fridge, they're hard as rocks, and why do you want to try to lie to yourself and say that little green pebbles are delicious? Stop "lightly sautéing" them with a touch of garlic, stop "scattering them generously" onto a pasta, and for the love of anything decent, stop putting them in salads.

I think it's time we faced reality: peas are, by nature, beans. That's what they are, and what they want to be. And they're tender and incredibly delicious when they're just plucked (or plucked from the freezer aisle of the grocery store, but more on that another time), and need hardly any cooking at all. But after a couple of days, all their sugar starts turning to hard starch, like the beans they are, and that means we need to cook them like beans -- for a long-assed time, until they soften again and show off their creamy, complexly, maturely sweet selves.

Anyway, give a listen to Matthew and Molly's charming podcast, Spilled Milk, and hear me rant and say regrettable things like, " We should stop pretending and lying to ourselves that the three-day-old peas are tender young babies. After three days in the fridge, they're like gnarly bad-assed teenagers, and we need to beat them into submission."

I get going at around the 2:30 mark, and I have no explanation for why I sound like a gay British dandy getting ready for a weekend at the country estate. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Oh, and a recipe:

Amazingly Delicious Mushy Peas

By Matthew Amster-Burton and Molly Wizenberg, adapted from Jamie Oliver, and blatantly stolen by Francis Lam (OK, I asked.)

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
1 pound frozen peas (preferably not petite peas)
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper

  1. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the mint and peas and cook until the peas begin to lose their frosty tinge. Add the water, cover, and simmer until the peas are army green, 8 to 12 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a food processor, add the butter and salt and pepper to taste, and process to just shy of smooth. Serve hot.

By Francis Lam

Francis Lam is Features Editor at Gilt Taste, provides color commentary for the Cooking Channel show Food(ography), and tweets at @francis_lam.

MORE FROM Francis Lam

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Cooking Techniques Eyewitness Cook Food