Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spring English Pea Soup with Tarragon. Oh, that hits the spot!


Hello, my dear friends and readers!  I've missed not having any time to visit food blogs.  I've definitely been busy in the kitchen, but all my photos and recipes have been waiting for me to carve out some time to sit down and work on posts.  I decided to share this delectable soup that I created, first.  This soup is based on a "food memory" that dates back to a time when I was in my early 20's.  I can clearly remember the Carmel restaurant (thought it's now closed), the texture, the flavor and the chef who created one of the best soups I've ever had.  What made this soup so memorable was the creamy texture, with just the right amount of whole fresh peas-- that added a nice crunchy texture with each bite.  I remember that the chef was a friend of my dinner partner. When he sent the soup from his kitchen, he had the server present a plate of lemon slices along side it.  I was encouraged  to squeeze some fresh lemon juice into the soup.  I loved it! (From that day, forward, I cannot enjoy any kind of cream soup without fresh lemon juice).   Almost thirty years later, I've never seen a soup like that on any restaurant menu.

Last week, I spotted a bag of shelled English peas at my local Costco.   The mere thought of not having to shell peas was a surprise bonus. The memory of that soup is what really compelled me to buy these  I wanted to see if I could recreate the recipe, from long ago.   I got a little inspiration on where to start,  from a favorite recipe  for Creamy Asparagus Soup, that I've made several times.

Peas and Mint are a popular combination, in soup.  But, you see, my husband cringes at the mere mention of mint in any kind of savory dish.  In our herb garden, we have lots of French tarragon growing.  Fortunately, we both love the slice licorice taste of tarragon.

I decided to use a finely chopped shallot, because they have a milder flavor than traditional onion...

...and I chopped about two Tablespoons of tarragon...

If you can't find freshly shelled English peas, you'll have to invest a little time into doing that yourself.  I used about 5 cups of peas. Can you use regular frozen peas?  Sure.  But English peas are extra special! In a Dutch Oven, I heated some olive oil and butter, until melted. Next, I added the shallots and cooked them until tender, 2-3 minutes; the tarragon was added (or choice of fresh herbs). I used white pepper, for seasoning.

Add 4 cups of the peas, reserving 1 cup, and enough chicken (or vegetable) stock to just cover them. Cover the pot, and cook for about 12 minutes, over medium heat.

The peas should feel tender, but not mushy. If you have an immersion blender, you can puree the peas right in the pot! Otherwise, carefully pure the soup in small batches in a blender.

I added about 1 Tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese and about 1/4 cup of heavy cream to the soup. (The Parmesan cheese added a perfect balance to the flavor of the peas, and a little bit of saltiness to the soup.  Give the soup a final taste, and adjust the seasonings to your palate.

I added a cup of peas into the creamy soup, and cooked it on low for about 5 minutes.  The soup was a little on the thin side. No worries...

Because I enjoy making homemade soups and stews, I keep a box of potato starch flour on hand.  In a small bowl, I use about 1 heaping Tablespoon of the starch, and I whisk in a ladle of the soup, until thoroughly combined-- hence, I don't create lumpy soup. Then, I add it back into my soup. 

There's the texture I want-- creamy, slightly thick with some whole peas.  Last...

... I add some fresh lemon juice-- about 1 Tablespoon.  Add a little at a time, to your liking. The soup took about 30 minutes to make.

TASTING NOTES:  My son isn't a fan of frozen peas, on his dinner plate.  He loved this soup! As for me, I do believe that I recreated one of the best things I ever ate! (Isn't that a Food Network show?)  My family enjoyed the creaminess of the soup, the mild flavor of the tarragon worked really well with the brightness from the lemon juice.  You can't really taste the Parmesan cheese, as it adds the perfect balance of nuttiness and saltiness.  I quickly wrote down how I made this, but I didn't really measure at the time I was inventing.  I think this soup has room for improvising measurements.  There is a printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.

What makes me happy, is that I don't have to wait 25 more years to try this again.  I'd happily serve this as a first course at a dinner party. Sooner, than later!

I'm off to visit food blogs. I'm looking forward to catching up on what y'all have been making!

Enjoy!


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7 comments:

Judy said...

I just purchased those peas at Costco too! Thanks for the great recipe!

Joanne said...

So I realized after reading this that I have never had tarragon before. Seriously. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!? You make it sound so good, though, especially in this pretty pea soup!

Kate said...

The only soup I have had with peas is split pea and I am not sure that counts! This looks wonderful, Debby, and perfect for spring!

Cheryl said...

HOLY CRAP I bought the same ones from Costco and had no flipping idea what to do with them! Now I know! Thanks for sharing!

karenalbro said...

Am off to Costco! Looks delicious!

Chiara "Kika" Assi said...

I love pea soup!!! I really, really love it. I'm going to try this. I don't have any tarragon in my little terrace garden yet, though, so maybe I'll have to go with mint...

Mother Rimmy said...

This soup is perfect to warm me up after weeding in all the cold and rainy Seattle weather. I love the use of tarragon. You don't see it used often and it's such a lovely herb!

Kristi