Petite Pea Soup
June 21, 2017
One of my favorite movies growing up was The Rescuers Down Under – a Disney film about animal adventurers on a mission to save a little boy. I watched it countless times, but one scene stands out against the rest in my memory. The critters are mooching off of the humans in a fancy restaurant; a pea falls to the ground and a canny staff of crickets announces “pea soup” as the day’s special. Every time I hear the words “pea soup” I think of watching this movie as a little kid – this scene has been pretty heavily referenced in my house.
I love peas; I’ve loved them ever since I was a baby. They are hands down my favorite vegetable, and super easy to make – just heated in water, drained, salted and served. For the longest time, I was skeptical about pea soup; I thought split pea was the only kind. Last year that all changed: I had the best fresh English pea soup of my life at Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud in the city. It was unforgettable – a beautiful light green, so smooth and light it was almost frothy, served warm, and on the top floated the best agnolotti I’ve ever had in my life, filled with braised romaine. I’ve searched and searched for a recipe to recreate the agnolotti, but those little pillows must be Boulud’s own invention. (looks like I’ll have to start experimenting on my own).
I came across this recipe for Boulud’s pea soup, but I wanted to create my own – one a little simpler that would make English peas the star.
My recipe calls for only English peas. Frozen shelled peas work great, most varieties should be fine, but always go for petite peas – they’re much sweeter than the larger type. I like Cascadian Farms Organic Sweet Peas. For this recipe, I chose a mix of water and chicken broth so as to not overwhelm the delicate flavor of the peas. I think this soup pairs very nicely with hearty multigrain bread, or a potato rosemary tart from Balthazar Bakery. (We buy them in bulk and freeze them – they can be thawed and reheated at 400° for 15 minutes)
3 cup (generous) peas
1 ¼ cup + ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
¾ cup water
4 small scallions (approx. ¼ cup) – sliced thin and chopped in half (can substitute shallots)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp white pepper
¼ cup heavy cream (or crème fraîche)
2 tbsp finely chopped tarragon?
(optional) pan-seared pancetta, or prosciutto for garnish
1. Melt butter in a stockpot over medium high heat and throw in scallion, sautéing until translucent and just starting to brown. Add the tarragon then turn down heat to low.
2. Add to stockpot 1 ¼ cup chicken broth and ¾ cup water, and 3 cups peas.
3. Cook until peas are no longer frozen – about 5 or 6 minutes. Taste to check and add seasoning.
4. Pour the contents of the crockpot into a blender and pulse, making sure to let out steam in between every couple of pulses. Blend and liquefy the soup until the consistency is relatively smooth.
5. Drain the contents of the blender back into the pot with a sieve – put the pea puree that stays behind back in the blender with the remaining ½ cup of chicken broth. Pulse and blend until smooth, then drain again. At this point you can choose to only keep the filtered smooth bisque*, or you can add the puree back in (which is what I choose to do for this recipe)
6. Add back in the puree and blend until smooth.
7. Stir in the heavy cream over low heat on the stovetop. Season to taste, garnish and serve.
*Soup can be classified as either a bisque or a chowder – bisques are smooth whereas chowders are chunky.