Dad was a funny eater. My food memories of him are precious and peculiar.
He was more of a nibbler than a big meal guy. On weekends, he would make big breakfasts for everyone – three-egg omelets with at least two slices of American cheese, french toast, pancakes … firsts, seconds, as much as you could fit in. Early in the morning, he would drive to the Corner Store, the only store in the town where I grew up, and buy the necessary provisions: eggs, milk, hard rolls, cheese, and a couple of donuts – one glazed and one plain with the chocolate frosting on top. While he would cook these lumberjack breakfasts for me, my sister, my brother and any sleepover buddies, for himself he would cut one of the donuts into quarters or eighths and nibble. Throughout the morning he would return to the donut, steal a piece, then go back to whatever he was doing. Same went for snacks later on. A block of sharp cheese would be out on the counter all day. He would pace back and forth watching the Jets and during commercial breaks, pop into the kitchen to cut a slice of that cheese.
Dad had a particular way of making a fried egg, which I now realize was quite sophisticated, despite the name – double dip, no flip. “Double dip” meant the extra dippy-ness of the yolk, into which we would plunge buttered toast and sometimes leave behind craters of fried egg white. The “no flip” meant that the egg was never flipped. He would drop a pat of butter into the hot pan, let it sizzle, then break an egg or two into the buttery spot. Once the egg whites halfway set, Dad would pour a bit of water into the pan lid, throw the water into the pan and cover it with the lid to steam the eggs. His timing was infallible. He never peeked – he knew just how long to cook the eggs and when he finally lifted the lid they were always perfect: smooth pink over the yolks and whites totally set with a touch of crisp on the edges.
As part of the B2S questionnaire, I ask people what is their earliest food-related memory. Mine has to do with one of Dad’s quirky food things. He used to make for me a sandwich that Granddad, perhaps originally in an instance of clueless and creative genius while Grandma wasn’t home, made for him – a thick layer of Jiffy peanut butter and a nearly-as-thick layer of mayonnaise on white bread. It was a lunch that Dad would often make for me when I went to pre-school and kindergarten.* I must have been four years old when catastrophe struck: I forgot my lunchbox on the bus. Almost inconsolable, my teacher there there‘d me, led me to the school kitchen (it was a Montessori school – of course it had a kitchen!) and said she would make me a new lunch. What was in my lunchbox, she asked. Peanut butter and mayonnaise, I answered between sobs. No, no, honey, you must be confused. You mean peanut butter and jelly, she corrected. Noooooooo, I answered, getting worked up. Peanut butter and mayonnaise, I insisted. I see her kind yet skeptical face looking down at me as she stood next to the refrigerator, unsure of what to make for me.
Then there were the peas. Canned peas. Canned vegetables don’t seem ground for snobbery.** If it’s canned, it’s probably packed with sodium and likely tastes a distant cousin to the vegetable in its natural form. And generally, Dad wasn’t one to fuss over the brands of his foods. But those canned peas. They had to be Le Sueur. There were several cans of Le Sueur peas in our pantry at all times. And to this day, I won’t buy another brand.
So, this recipe is an ode to Dad – who knew what he liked to eat and how he liked to eat it. Inspired by a Spanish dish, guisantes con jamón, I’m making peas with pancetta using Dad’s peas of choice, Le Sueur. Cocinamos!
- 1 can Le Sueur sweet peas
- 3 oz. pancetta, cubed
- 1 small or 1/2 large white onion, julienned
- 1 garlic clove, sliced
- 1 bunch mint leaves
- 2 tb EVOO
- Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- Parsley for finishing touch
- String to make a bouquet garni with the mint
(scroll down for guidance)
Using the string, tie a few sprigs of mint together tightly. This is your bouquet garni, which will add an herby flavor and can be removed before serving. Add oil to a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the pancetta and move it around frequently. Once it begins to golden on the fatty parts, add onions. Let onions cook until golden and a few are crispy. Next throw in the garlic, stirring around to prevent garlic from browning. Once garlic is translucent, pour in the can of peas, 1/2 cup of water (or about 1/3 of the peas can) and the bouquet garni. Grind some black pepper on top and stir carefully. Turn up the heat and cover. When water begins to boil, stir around the mixture and lower heat. Simmer for 20 minutes or the amount of time it takes to poach an egg. While egg is poaching, chop parsley. Serve peas with poached egg on top, fresh ground black pepper and chopped parsley.
*Note: no salt was added to this dish – the canned peas and pancetta were enough for me.
Poaching the egg:
Boil water in small saucepan. Carefully crack one egg into a bowl. Once water reaches a rolling boil, add a splash of tasty vinegar and make sure heat is on low. When water reaches a rolling boil again (slow, not violent boil) slide the egg from the bowl into the water. Using a slotted spoon, carefully push the egg around in the water (to prevent it from sticking to the bottom) until white is set. I like to cook them about 4 minutes total, resulting in maximum dippy-ness without drippy whites.