Back in the early years of our marriage, we often had dinner parties. It was the late 70’s and everyone was doing it. At the time there were so many “exotic” foods to try; Coq au vin, paella with that strange and expensive spice saffron, and Beef Wellington.
We had fun in the kitchen. One of my favorite cookbooks of that time was The Pleasure of your Company by Diana and Paul von Welanetz. They were world travelers and cooking instructors from California. Diana had studied at the Cordon Bleu and the couple loved food of all ethnic origins. The Pleasure of your Company had recipes for, among many, A Spanish Paella Party, An Italian Dinner for a Couple or a Crowd, A German Party for Eight or More and An Elegant Dinner Party in the New Orleans Manner.
The menu for the Elegant Dinner Party in the New Orleans Manner was very French. It included Oysters Rockefeller, Coq au Vin, French-Style Baked Peas, Croissants, French Quarter Ice Cream Torte with Fudge Sauce and Cafe Brulot. I made it often.
The other night I pulled a package of frozen peas out of the freezer, they being the only vegetable I had for dinner and a light bulb went on in my head. “What about those French peas I used to make?” “Where is that cookbook?” Luckily it was on my cookbook shelf here in Florida and I turned to the much used and stained page.
I am calling this vegetable dish “Retro” because it was something I used to do and because of the casserole I cooked it in.
This Pyrex casserole is 46 years old. It was a wedding present. It has a lid and I still love using it. It is perfect for the Peas Francais. One of the reasons I love this recipe is that you put frozen peas directly in the oven with pats of butter, chopped shallots and lettuce. Easy peasy, literally.
The finished dish tastes great. The bit of sugar, butter, shallots and lettuce make a big difference. David tasted the peas and said “Ah . . . now I remember this”. A trip down memory lane indeed.
FRENCH-STYLE BAKED PEAS
3 ten-ounce packages frozen peas
1 shallot, or the white part of 2 scallions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or margarine in a chunk ( I cubed it )
1 leaf iceberg lettuce, cut into 1/4 inch strips ( I used romaine )
Place the frozen peas in a 2 to 3 quart casserole with a tight-fitting lid. Top with all the other ingredients. Bake covered at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour. (I cooked it for 45 minutes). Stir and serve right in the casserole.
To Make Ahead: Assemble all the ingredients except the lettuce. Store in the freezer until ready to bake. Top with lettuce 1 hour before serving and bake as directed.
As an added note: Diana von Welanetz Wentworth is also the author of The Chicken Soup for the Soul Cookbook and Send Me Someone, the story of the tragic loss of her husband Paul to cancer and the beginning of her new life with Ted Wentworth.