Sunday, August 28, 2005

peas in cream sauce, comfort food I

This is not really a cream sauce—it’s a simple white sauce with frozen peas thawed into it. Simple ingredients and patience, well worth the simple and delicious result. This is my grandmother’s recipe, and it made my brothers and me roll our eyes and rub our bellies in anticipation.

Equal amounts of real butter and white flour (start with a tablespoon of each, and see how it goes.)
Whole milk, a few cups
Frozen peas, a small bag
Sea salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper

While the butter begins to melt in the pan, measure out the flour—whisk in and watch: if there is more butter than the flour can absorb, you will need a sprinkle more of flour. If dry flour will not incorporate into the paste, add a touch more butter. Cook for a minute, whisking, and don’t worry if the mixture gathers onto the whisk while you are stirring. (If the butter has browned, if the paste browns, you will have to start all over—but it’s only a little butter and flour, right? No problem.)

Add a splash of milk, and you will see a quick paste form. Add a second splash and incorporate, continuing to add a quarter cup or so at a time until you have a thick “gravy.” Place a “flame tamer” under the pan to keep sauce from scorching.

Sprinkle in the frozen peas and stir. Cook until peas are thawed and green, stirring occasionally. Add a half teaspoon of sea salt, to begin. A steam will begin to rise before bubbling commences, and this is a good time to serve it. Taste the sauce and you will see how perfectly sweet your peas are. Bring the pepper to the table.

To be completely decadent in a Midwestern fashion, serve with mashed potatoes. It’s a starch-fest, a beautiful thing. I am no good at fried chicken, but if you provide that, I’ll bring the peas and potatoes, so we can get all of our high-fat foods and starches in one delicious swoop. Leave a few days for recovery.

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