Monday, April 1, 2013

Comfort Food: Peas & Potatoes in a Creamy White Sauce

This is one of those things I grew up eating as a kid that is strictly all about comfort.  There is absolutely nothing beautiful about this dish, nor really anything healthy at all, but it brings back a lot of memories and sometimes you really just need something nice and homey.  This is something my mom would make for us when we were kids, because it is something her mom would make for her and her siblings.  Growing up, my Grandma Allen was a single mother to 8 children, yes 8!  She would make all kinds of interesting dishes that we migh not appreciate as my mom, aunts and uncles appreciated then.  She would make this toast (homemade in my Grandma's case) served with gravy made from chicken drippings.  Needless to say, she really had to make things stretch out to feed everyone and make use of all ingredients - wasting nothing.  I can certainly appreciate that way of thinking and try to do the same in my daily food preparations.  I keep all my vegetable scraps in the freezer in a gallon Ziploc bag, and once the bag is full, I make a giant batch of vegetable stock.  Then I can make tons of soups, sauces, etc.  I also try to use all components of other ingredients, like kale and collards.  I cook with the leafy greens (or make smoothies), then juice the stalks.  The whole bunch of kale is used.  And at almost $4 a bunch for organic kale, I'd better be using all of it!

With yesterday being Easter, a special time for family, I was feeling pretty lonely and a bit sad.  It is the first holiday without my Grandma Allen.  And even though I have not been to Easter or really any family holiday since moving to NY in the past 6 years, I really felt the loss this year, and the regret from not getting to make it home for those holidays.  Every Easter and Thanksgiving we would all (imagine her 8 children with children of their own and some even with grandchildren of their own - a nice, full home!) go to Grandma's house and spend time with family.  I remember being a kid and having such a blast.  It's sad to think that that is never going to happen again.  So, with all of these sad feelings, no wonder I was gravitating toward eating something very homey that my Grandmother taught her kids, who in turn taught their kids (us).  It was a very tasty dish too, so it hit the spot.  Make it when you are missing your family or when you want something simple and tasty.

Peas and Potatoes in a Creamy White Sauce:

Sigh.  Reminds me of childhood.

Serves: 2

2 large potatoes, peeled and medium diced
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/2 small yellow onion, small diced
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons unbleached flour
2 cups unsweetened almond milk, or more as desired
sea salt and black pepper to taste

1.  Place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water.  Place pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Periodically check the doneness of the potatoes by poking them with a fork.
2.  When they are just able to be pierced, add the peas. 
3.  Drain the peas and potatoes into a colander.
4.  Prepare the white sauce: in a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and allow to become hot.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook till softened, but do not allow it to color. 
5.  Add the flour and cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently.
6.  Add the almond milk, whisking immediately so the sauce doesn't clump.  Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
7.  Bring the sauce up to a simmer, allowing it to thicken.  Once it reaches the desired thickness, add in the cooked potatoes and peas.  Stir to coat in the sauce and season. 
8.  My choice is to eat with sriracha, but Grandma would serve it as is, using dairy milk and butter instead of almond milk and olive oil of course!



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