Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Minted Peas & Leeks

For Christmas dinner this year, I made a ham. It was a giant, bulky beast and I relished the idea of ham leftovers for many days after. The recipe for the ham comes from Saveur and it’s one I’ve made before. It couldn’t be any easier and more delicious: roast the ham in the oven for a couple hours and then baste it for another hour with an outrageously good glaze consisting of brown sugar, Dijon mustard, and orange marmalade. It comes out of the oven bronzed, the outer layer caramelizing into ham candy.
While plotting the rest of the menu, I thought of the classic combination of ham and peas. I’ve got some beautiful mint growing on the balcony and liked the idea of livening up some standard frozen peas with the fresh herb. I love leeks and thought their tender, buttery flavor would blend well with the other ingredients.
I really love this easy side dish because it can be made year round with simple, available ingredients but tastes decidedly bright and spring-like. This recipe also gussies up the humble frozen pea enough that it seems fancy and a definite departure from the boiled (or canned) peas I grew up with.

To serve 4:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large leeks
  • 16 ounces (500 grams) frozen baby peas, thawed slightly
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • Fine sea salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Cut off the dark green ends of the leeks. Cut them in half lengthwise and then thinly slice the leeks into half-moons. You should have about 1½ cups.
In a large skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently until soft, about 15 minutes. If the leeks start to brown, turn the heat down.
Turn the heat up to medium and add the peas. Stir to mix well with the leeks and butter/oil. Cook until the peas are heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the mint and cook for a minute more. Remove from the heat and season with the sea salt. Transfer the peas to a serving dish and garnish with the lemon zest.

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