June 29, 2015
Roland Stofeth handed me a liter‑size deli container of blanched petit pois.
Using kitchen sign language, he instructed me to peel each of the tiny peas. He then quickly left to eat his lunch while I faced the task of peeling what must have been a few thousand peas. Roland was a young apprentice in the restaurant where I was staging
. The day was Saturday, April 29th, 2000. The restaurant was the Château d’Amondans in Amondans, France. The task had been given to Roland, but he wasn’t interested in doing it so he graciously passed it along to me. I only learned the truth after I was done. The job took me two hours. The chef was pissed at Roland. I was somewhat ambivalent.
The current menu listed a garnish of spring vegetables. There was about fifteen different vegetables in the dish, and each serving had about a tablespoon of the tiny peas in it. It was only after I tasted the dish that I realized that I had never before ate peas that tasted good. I never liked peas. Peas disgusted me. These were different.
After I returned home, I tasted peeled and unpeeled peas from the same few pods side‑by‑side. The peeled peas were great. I didn’t like the unpeeled peas. I made a few dishes with peeled peas that summer, but I haven’t thought much about them since then. That is unless someone serves me unpeeled peas. Then I grumble.
Eight weeks ago, I was having dinner at Eleven Madison Park
in New York City. The first course was peas served over some partially drained yoghurt and accompanied by some slightly thickened yogurt whey. There was a sprinkling of freeze‑dried egg yolk and some flower as decoration. It was quite good. The peas were peeled.
The Saturday after I returned to my California home, I made a trip to my local farmer’s market and purchased six English pea pods. I shucked the pea pods. I blanched the peas in salted, boiling water for 30 seconds and shocked them in ice water for a couple of minutes. After a light draining, I peeled each of the peas. (The peeling is done by gently tearing the skin of each pea with a fingernail or the tip of a small knife and then squeezing the pea halves from inside the skin.) The resulting tablespoon of peas was set in my refrigerator to chill and dry out a little overnight.
The next day, I added a couple drops of almond oil to the peas and placed them on a serving spoon. Just before eating, a little flaked salt was added.
This was a solo amuse‑bouche with just enough peas for me to devour in a single bite. And I did. And all was well in my world.