French in a Flash: Crispy Seared Cod and Petits Pois à la Française

Kerry Saretsky

Petits Pois à la Française, or French peas, is a very traditional and somewhat unusual dish. There are many iterations, as is to be expected with an old-school French dish. In my version, I start with a little bit of pancetta, add the peas and some parsley, and finish it off with just a dollop of crème fraîche. But the one ingredient that all versions have, including mine, is lettuce—chopped sucrine lettuce, thrown in to wilt at the last second. It's not conventional, but it's delicious. The lettuce stems retain their crunch and the leaves just start to wilt into the creamy sauce. It lightens up the whole dish and allows the dish to achieve that perfect balance we're always desperately hunting for in French cooking.

Usually these peas are served as a side, but I make it into dinner by searing fillets of cod and mounding them on top of the peas. There's a heartiness to it, but between the flaky fish and the extreme vegetal nature of the peas, it's light and lively. A must try!