Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vegetable Casserole

A vegetable medley casserole with a classic mixture of pimentos, carrots, peas and corn, transformed with a few simple seasonings and a fabulous cream sauce into a wonderful vegetable casserole, topped here with panko.

Vegetable Casserole

One 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.

The brand 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: Vegetable Casserole

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 min |Cook time: 30 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings


For the Vegetables:
  • 2 cups of sliced carrots, cooked, reserve cooking water
  • 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
For the Cream Sauce:
  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup of finely minced onion
  • 1/4 cup of minced celery
  • 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
For the Topping:
  • 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, panko or crushed cracker crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons 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, add the onion and celery and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. 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: Try this with a mixture of freshly cooked carrots, broccoli and cauliflower too or mixed frozen vegetables.


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Posted by on November 10, 2011

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  1. What a nice recipe. This could go in many directions as you suggested with different and/or additional items. What triggered my comment, though, was that it reminded me of my Grandmother making creamed peas with new potatoes in the early spring. Little tiny peas and little tiny potatoes in a lucsious white cream sauce. Oh so good! And then it reminded me of peas with cocktail onions. Little tiny peas with little tiny onions. Guess I just love miniature food! Thanks for the recipe and the reminders of some good food I can start making again.

  2. I don't even like peas and you've made this sound wonderful!

  3. I LOVE peas! I will be making this - this weekend! We have a very large Thanksgiving - 45 people or so and I'm thinking I need a sit down dinner this weekend of just my immediate family! I think I'll make this and give it a trial run for the actual feast on Thanksgiving Day.

    I just discovered your blog! I grew up in central Florida and really miss all the yummy southern food I grew up eating. I am always seeking out recipes for real food and real cooking and not those - 5 ingredient or less recipes! They are useful, don't get me wrong, but I'm afraid the good stuff will be lost on us one of these days if we don't keep passing on these recipes for (and the love of) real food!

    You got it GOING ON!

    Thanks for posting these delicious recipes!

  4. Oh yes knancy, those are memorable dishes for sure!

    Pam these tiny little sweet peas are marvelous!

    Hi Gina and welcome!! I'm with you on that 5 ingredient/quick fix movement. Of course I have some of those & I use shortcuts too, but I don't think that should be the only way we cook either! I've had a few people tell me that my site here has gotten them back into the kitchen and reminded them that they actually do love cooking - let me tell you, that is the best compliment anybody could ask for. Thanks so much & glad to have you here with us. Please let me know what you think of the casserole!

  5. Perfect! I was just thinking this morning that I need some color to each Thanksgiving plate (always lots of brown it seems)and this will be great! Thanks for featuring this one today! Also, loved reading the LeSueur history lesson...the fam loves those things!!

  6. Think the frozen variety of sweet, petite peas would work??? Childhood aversion to canned peas. Jan M.

  7. We do too Mignon! They are tasty little sweeties aren't they?

    Yes Jan! You can use the frozen peas - they'll work fine. Enjoy!

  8. You mention 1/4 cup cream in the recipe then refer to 1/2 cup cream. I gather it is supposed to be 1/2 cup cream. Looking forward to making the recipe.

  9. This is different than the pea casserole I grew up with but similar. The one we had used canned asparagus and water chestnuts- this was back in the day when you could not get asparagus year round. It was topped with canned fried onion rings too. Bush's is 2 miles from where my folks live in Chestnut Hill Tennessee although I live in Nashville.

  10. Thanks for catching that - yes, it's 1/2 cup of cream, plus the carrot water & juice from the peas for a total of 1-1/2 cups of liquid.

    I have heard of that one too with the asparagus! My mother always loved that canned asparagus. She would eat it cold right out of the can. Used to make me shutter, but it's really not bad though I'd much prefer it in a hot casserole myself. I am a Bush's gal - love their products!!

  11. This rocks, Mary, so creamy and delicious. I want try this ASAP, that white sauce looks to die for.

  12. Awesome recipe.. I can't wait to try it. I love the color the pimentos add and just as some of your other comments have pointed out, this would be a lovely side dish for Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for posting!

  13. Oh Lordy, Lordy! My granny used to try to choke me with Le Sueur canned peas when I was a kid (and that was a loooong time ago!). Hated the things! She'd serve 'em with a homemade mint sauce and lamb chops. Oh, Geez! Strangely enough, I've grown to like them... lolol! Will have to try this recipe... maybe try them with the pearl onions too... Anything with a good cream sauce is okay with me.

    1. LOL, I think that happens to a lot of us. I was never a fan of peas as a child - I'm not sure there are any child fans of peas ha! But like you I love them now. That's basically what this is though - a mixed vegetable casserole in a cream sauce. Yum!


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