July 24, 2016
I was talking on the phone to a friend t’other night and she mentioned that her daughter was amazed she made pea salad without a recipe.
“Oh, pea salad! You mean the one with the mayonnaise, the grated cheese, the bacon…”
Yep, that one.
Which put me in a frame of mind for pea salad.
I don’t know if this is a “Southern thing” or what, but I’ve had it in a variety of guises over the years. It has peas and mayo; everything else, and there can be lots else, is optional. Some people make a “seven-layer salad” that is somewhat similar, but I prefer mine, as I do most salads, without lettuce in it.
At its very basic level, it’s barely blanched English peas, chilled; mayonnaise, sugar and lemon juice. If you like onion and bell pepper, add those; if you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know my opinion on those, so you know I don’t. Chopped up crispy bacon adds a wonderful layer of flavor; I have grated or diced hard-boiled eggs into it as well, and I generally add some grated cheese (Kraft cheddar works just fine in this role).
As nearly as I can reconstruct a recipe — I just start dumping stuff in a bowl — you start with about two cups of English peas. If they’re fresh, that’s divine, but you aren’t going to get fresh ones but for a very short season, and frozen work just fine. Blanch them in boiling water for maybe three minutes, then drain them and shock them in ice water. Set them to one side while you make the dressing:
- 1/3 or so cup of mayonnaise
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 scant tbsp sugar
I guess you could use other spices, but for the life of me, I can’t see why you would. The only thing I MIGHT contemplate adding, if I had it fresh, is tarragon. Stir all that up together, sample, adjust, and dump it on top of the peas. Add:
- 1/2 cup chopped, crispy bacon
- `1/2 cup grated cheese
This would be where you’d add your boiled egg, your onion, your pepper, any of that stuff.
Stir it all up and — this is important — let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours before you eat it. This lets the flavors blend, and allows the sugar to completely dissove so there’s no residual graininess.
This is good stuff. The flavor of the peas shines through, with a little sweetness from the dressing, punctuated with salty accents from the bacon and cheese. It’s marvelous as a light lunch with a few sliced tomatoes, it keeps well for two or three days in the fridge, and it’s a fine, fine pot-luck dish or for any time you need to make a side ahead of time and get it out of the way.
You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em have had it, I know, and if you’re like me, it’s something you’ve just forgotten about. But as long as you’ve got a bag of frozen peas, chances are you have the rest of the stuff on hand. Make you some!