Petits pois à la française is a classic French way to prepare peas, braising them with some bacon, onion and lettuce. The flavors are relatively simple but incredibly delicious and this side dish goes well with a broad range of mains.
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Fresh peas are always a lovely sign of spring, I find, though I admit I often walk right on by. I love nibbling on freshly picked peas but am not so good at getting myself to cook with them.
Recently, however, I remembered about this classic French preparation and I'm so glad I did as it really is a wonderful way to enjoy them. The smokiness from the bacon and gently sweet onion add lovely flavors, but not so much that you don't get to enjoy the peas themselves.
Plus, it's really easy and versatile.
This is the kind of dish that would be perfect as a side for Easter, Sunday dinner or any meal, really. The flavors pair with pork, ham, chicken and duck, especially. They would also work well with a number of fish.
What's in French style peas?
The exact ingredients can vary, but essentially you sauté some onion and, usually, smoked bacon/lardons then add the fresh peas and braising liquid. You can use water but a little chicken stock adds that bit more flavor. Then, once the peas are cooked, season lightly before adding some torn lettuce to wilt on top.
Some recipes also add a little cream, some herbs or carrots in there as well. I've kept things relatively simple, but it's a great dish to adjust the flavors a little to taste.
For the onions, you can use spring onions, pearl onions (the little ones) or slice a smaller, fresh white onion. All will work much the same - you want to bring out their gentle sweetness rather than browning them. The lettuce is typically butter lettuce, but you can also use romaine, cos or little gem.
Can you use frozen peas?
Traditionally, this is a way of preparing fresh peas and arguably they are a little better here, but frozen peas will certainly work. Just defrost them first, and then you will probably want to reduce the braising time a little since they will cook quicker.
I would not recommend using canned peas as they will almost certainly become too soft as they are already cooked.
Petit pois à la française might sound fancy, but these French peas are really pretty easy to make, and the combination of flavors is so good. The dish has plenty of flavor, yet they also go with a range of mains. They're tasty enough I for one could enjoy them straight out of the pan. So try them soon and enjoy!
Try these other tasty vegetable side dishes:
- Greek green beans (fasolakia)
- Japanese simmered squash (kabocha no nimono)
- Sautéed French green beans (with shallot and garlic)
- Maple roasted parsnips
- Plus get more side dish recipes and French recipes in the archives.
Petits pois a la francaise - French peas
- 1 ½ oz smoked bacon or lardons
- 4 spring onions or pearl onions
- ½ tablespoon butter
- ¾ cup shelled peas
- 2 tablespoon chicken stock or water
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon sugar
- 2 lettuce leaves or a little less/more depending on size
- If not already cut, slice the bacon into relatively thin slices. Peel the outer layer off the spring onions and trim the end. Cut the white and light green part into slices. If using pearl onions, peel and cut in half or quarters, depending on size.
- Warm the butter in a small pan/pot with a lid over a medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook a couple minutes, stirring regularly, but don't let it brown. Add the onion and cook a minute more to gently soften the onion.
- Add the peas and stock, cover the pan with the lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Leave the peas to cook for around 10-15 minutes so that the liquid absorbs and the peas are cooked through. If the liquid is gone quickly, add a little more.
- Once the peas are cooked, add the salt, pepper and sugar and stir through. Tear the lettuce leaves and place over the top of the peas, cover with the lid again and cook another minutes.
- Stir through and serve.
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