Petits Pois à la Française, or French peas, is a very traditional and somewhat unusual dish. There are many iterations, as is to be expected with an old-school French dish. In my version, I start with a little bit of pancetta, add the peas and some parsley, and finish it off with just a dollop of crème fraîche. But the one ingredient that all versions have, including mine, is lettuce—chopped sucrine lettuce, thrown in to wilt at the last second. It’s not conventional, but it’s delicious. The lettuce stems retain their crunch and the leaves just start to wilt into the creamy sauce. It lightens up the whole dish and allows the dish to achieve that perfect balance we’re always desperately hunting for in French cooking.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 6-ounce fillets of cod
- Salt and pepper
- 4 ounces diced pancetta
- 4 cups thawed frozen peas
- 1 head of baby gem lettuce, sliced
- 2 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
- 4 tablespoons crème fraîche
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat. Season the cod with salt and pepper. When the oil shimmers, place the cod presentation-side-down in the hot skillet. Sear for 4 to 5 minutes, until the fish takes on a nice golden crust. Then turn over, and finish cooking for 1 minute. Take the skillet off the heat, and remove the cod to a plate. Set aside.
Add the pancetta to the same skillet, and return to medium-high heat. Brown the pancetta until it starts to become crisp—2 to 3 minutes. Add in the peas and warm through, stirring often. Add 2 tablespoon of water, the lettuce, the parsley, and the crème fraîche. Stir over the heat until the crème fraîche has melted and the lettuce is just beginning to wilt. Season with salt and pepper.
To plate, make a bed of the peas. Top with the cod. Garnish with parsley. I recommend good crusty bread on the side.print this recipe