Creamy Spring Peas With Pancetta

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 30 min
  • Prep: 5 min
  • Cook: 25 min
  • Yield: 6-8 servings
  • Nutrition Info

Look no further for the ultimate spring pea salad recipe. This creamy side dish uses a tasty trio — snow peas, sugar snap peas and English peas. The bright green legumes (yes, they are related to beans) are tossed in a pancetta cream sauce and make the perfect accompaniment to ham, pork chops or pork tenderloin. Fresh peas require a little bit of prep work before cooking, depending on the variety. Here’s a quick pea primer to help you along: Snow peas are flat with teeny tiny peas inside — the pod is edible so there is no shelling required, though they do come with tough strings along their outer edge that should be removed prior to cooking. They're often found in stir fries and can also be eaten raw. English or sweet peas have long, rounded pods with plump, round peas inside. The pods are too tough to eat so they should be discarded or composted. These peas are sweet and can be eaten raw or cooked. (Frozen English peas are a great alternative if you don’t have the time to do all that shelling.) Sugar snap peas are a cross between English and snow peas. They are sweet and crunchy and can be cooked or eaten raw — they're a great addition to a crudité platter. They also have tough outer strings that needs to be removed. The peas in this recipe are cooked using a method called blanching. That means that very generously salted water (think sea water) is brought to a boil, the peas are simmered until bright green and toothsome and then immediately drained and plunged into an ice water bath (which is exactly what it sounds like — a large bowl filled with ice water). The ice water bath cools the peas so that the cooking stops at just the right moment. This helps the peas retain their perfectly cooked texture and vibrant, green color. The blanched peas should then be drained well. They can be prepped (and refrigerated) one day ahead. Pancetta (bacon’s cured, Italian cousin) goes great with peas and can be found at a butcher shop or in the meat section of your grocery store. If you'd like a little smoky flavor, make pea salad with bacon, which may be easier to find. Or, try small chunks of ham or salami. You can also freshen up this side dish with a little lemon zest and chopped fresh herbs like flat-leaf Italian parsley, tarragon, basil or dill. And for a vegetarian version, use vegetable stock instead of chicken broth, skip the meat and sprinkle the finished dish with a little smoked paprika. Or, top it with crunchy French-fried onions or toasted nuts like almonds, hazelnuts or pine nuts.

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Ingredients

Kosher salt

2 cups shelled fresh English peas or thawed frozen peas (about 10 ounces)

1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed

1/4 pound snow peas, trimmed and thinly sliced

4 ounces pancetta, chopped

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

Juice of 1 lemon

Freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl with ice water. If using fresh English peas, add to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 1 minute. Add the snap peas and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes, then add the snow peas and cook 30 seconds. Drain the peas and plunge into the ice water to cool.
  2. Cook the pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon. Add the flour to the drippings in the skillet and cook, whisking, until toasted, about 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth and cream and cook until reduced by one-third, about 6 minutes.
  3. Drain the peas, shaking off the excess water, then add to the skillet (if using frozen peas, add them here). Cook, stirring, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the pancetta.
  4. Photograph courtesy Anna Williams