First too-good-to-be-true thing: a large bag of in-shell English peas from the Norton Commons farmers market. Second too-good-to-be-true thing: a recipe for Fresh Green Pea Pie from Camille Glenn’s The Heritage of Southern Cooking, combining the fresh peas with a double crust. Mrs. Glenn, food editor for the Louisville Courier-Journal back when it was a great newspaper who died earlier this year at the age of 100, wrote:
If I were asked to name the greatest fresh vegetable dish in the whole wide world, I believe it would have to be Fresh Green Pea Pie, a combination of buttery fresh peas and crisp crust. It has succulence, flavor, freshness, elegance, and charm—and one doesn’t meet it every day.
Who could resist that description? We just had to try it.
Instead of one giant pie, we decided to modify the recipe to make a couple of individual ones. Steve shelled the peas and prepared the pastry, then Michelle took over. She cooked the peas for what seemed a long time, then mixed them with butter, chicken broth, parsley and a bit of dill before folding the mixture between two sheets of pie dough. After baking for about half an hour, the pies came out of the oven looking warm and wonderful. Hesitating for a bit of reflection on how best to un-tin the pastries (Michelle resolved, should there be a next time, to find some mini pie pans rather than tart pans to bake them in) we finally got to break into them—and found everything we wanted. Buttery-crisp pastry mixing with sweet, warm tender peas. An exceptional dish—and while Michelle doesn’t know if we’ll have the peas or the energy to make another batch, Steve is already pining for his latest love.
FRESH GREEN PEA PIE
(adapted from Camille Glenn’s The Heritage of Southern Coooking) (for two 4-1/2″ pies)
Crust for a single crust pie, refrigerated
1-1/2 quarts fresh green peas, in the pod
1/2 to 1 tsp. sugar
4-5 TB butter
2 TB chopped fresh parsley
1 TB chopped fresh dill
Salt & pepper
Splash of chicken stock
1/2 TB heavy cream
Divide crust into fourths. Roll out each quarter into an approximately 6″ circle on individual pieces of wax paper. Place two of the dough circles into 4-1/2″ pie or tart pans. Leave the other two on the wax paper. Return all to the refrigerator.
Shell peas. Cook in a pot of boiling, salted water, with the sugar, for 15-20 minutes, until done but still bright green. Drain. Put back in saucepan.
Add 4 TB of butter, herbs, salt and pepper. Toss over low heat until butter is melted. Splash on a bit of chicken stock. Cool.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Fill the prepared shells with the cooled peas. If peas look dry, top with some small pieces of butter. Lay remaining dough circles over tops of tarts. Pinch crusts together, using a little brushed-on water as glue. Trim off any excess dough, and crimp. Make a few slits in the top crusts with a sharp knife so that steam can escape. Brush top crusts with cream.
Bake on a baking sheet (or, as we did, on a pizza pan with holes) on the bottom rack of the oven until brown, about 30 minutes. Let settle on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before removing from pans.