|A classic mixture of carrots, peas and corn is transformed with a few simple seasonings and a fabulous cream sauce into a wonderful vegetable casserole, topped here with panko.|
Petit Pois Pea and Pimento CasseroleOne of the most popular canned peas in this part of The Deep South is a petit pois variety, literally translated from French as little pea. They are the tiniest, sweetest little baby peas and not at all cheap either, but when you realize just how many peas have to be shelled to just feed a single person, like fresh crabmeat and pecans, you appreciate the labor that goes into them and happily pay the price because you understand. The petit pois have a very short fresh season, only a few weeks in early June, so we enjoy them mostly canned down here. These are the tiny little peas that usually grace the southern holiday table and thanks to their delectable sweetness, I'm not at all surprised. We do love sweet in The South.
One of the popular brands of tiny peas that I purchase often are Dubon Petit Pois Peas, a product distributed by Bush Brothers, as in Bush's Beans, out of Knoxville, Tennessee. The other are the Le Sueur Very Young Small Early Peas, although I always have to have a little chuckle about the fact that our well loved southern Le Sueur peas, are actually from the north. Le Sueur, by the way apparently translates as "sweat" but it's more of an interpretation of to labor really. Makes perfect sense to me!
Having had their start in a town called Le Sueur, the original location of the Green Giant headquarters, and an area still known as "the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant," ho-ho-ho, ya'll! Sorry, couldn't help myself. Anyway, Green Giant was bought by Pillsbury, which was bought by General Mills and while they are still canned in Minnesota, it's now in a town called Montgomery. I recently received an email from a student in Minnesota working on a project about the history of Le Sueur brand, and oddly found out that they are rare to find up there. Guess that means we southerners are hoggin' all the tiny peas!
This recipe is sort of an interpretation of the old-fashioned classic English Peas and Pimento casserole dish that's been around since the dawn of time and found in one form or other in just about every old community style southern cookbook in print. Usually made with more common and much larger garden peas, a little onion, celery, pimentos and cream of mushroom soup, at minimum, it is a well loved vegetable casserole in Our South. I thought it wouldn't hurt to use petit pois and then take it up a notch with a homemade cream sauce, especially since this delicious casserole would be a wonderful addition to a holiday table. Make it a few days ahead without the bread crumb topping and refrigerate until needed. Let it come to room temperature about 30 minutes, top with the bread crumb mixture and bake.
Let's make it!
This casserole begins with some cooked carrots. I didn't photograph those but just cook them in a bit of water until tender, but still a little firm, and be sure to reserve the cooking water. You could sub in frozen sliced carrots here, but canned would be too soft. You'll be using some of the water from cooking the carrots as part of the liquid for the cream sauce.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9 x 9 inch baking dish; set that aside. You'll also need a can of tiny peas, preferably petit pois or very young early peas, drained, a 2 ounce jar of pimentos, drained, and a can of whole kernel corn. You'll drain the liquid from the corn into the 1/2 cup of heavy cream and set that aside. Oh and a little bit of fresh flat leaf parsley if you have it, otherwise dried is fine.
First we'll make a roux. Don't you just love when a southern recipe starts with that? You'll need 4 tablespoons of butter and 4 tablespoons of all purpose flour.
Cook and stir that for about 4 minutes.
If you didn't already, drain the liquid from the corn into the 1/2 cup of cream, then add enough of the cooking liquid from the carrots to bring that up to 1-1/2 cups of liquid total. Slowly add the cream mixture to the butter roux, stirring until fully incorporated.
Keep stirring until mixture thickens.
Yum. Gotta love a cream sauce.
Season with salt, pepper and parsley.
Add the drained, cooked carrots.
Add the peas. Look how adorable they are!
Then the corn. I like the white corn myself but use what you have.
And the drained pimentos.
Gently stir to combine everything and turn out into casserole dish.
Combine bread crumbs with butter and sprinkle on top.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes and dig in.
Recipe: Petit Pois Pea and Pimento Casserole©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 min |Cook time: 30 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings
- 2 cups of sliced carrots, cooked, reserve cooking water
- 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons of all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of heavy cream
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon of chopped, fresh parsley
- 1 (15 ounce) can of tiny early or petit pois peas, drained
- 1 (15 ounce) can of yellow or white corn, drained, but liquid reserved
- 1 (2 ounce) jar of pimentos, drained
- 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs, panko or crushed cracker crumbs
- 1 tablespoon of melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 9 inch baking dish; set aside. Cover the carrots with water and cook until tender but still a bit firm, remove and set aside, reserving the cooking water. Melt the butter over medium heat and stir in the flour, cooking and stirring for about 4 minutes. Drain the water from the corn into the 1/2 cup of cream and add enough of the cooking water from the carrots to equal 1-1/2 cups total liquid.
Slowly add the cream mixture to the butter roux, stirring until fully incorporated and mixture thickens. Season with salt, pepper and parsley. Add the drained carrots, peas, corn and pimentos and stir gently to combine. Turn out into casserole dish. Combine bread crumbs with butter and sprinkle on top and bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Double this for the holidays.
Variation: Add in 1/2 cup of your favorite shredded cheese. Can substitute freshly cooked corn scraped from the cob, frozen corn, carrots or peas, though do look for the baby peas, rather than the larger garden peas. Can also use frozen mixed vegetables. If you like. Add in about 1/2 cup of finely minced onion and/or 1/4 cup of minced celery with the butter before adding in the flour and cook the vegetables a few minutes to soften them. Can also add in one can of drained water chestnuts, or sliced almonds, for a little crunch. Though this is a great side dish for ham, throw in some diced, cooked ham to make this a great main dish casserole.
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