For whatever reason, the French have a bad rap for being rude. Whenever someone asks me if this is true, I have to find it in me to not take them by the shoulders and remind them that there are rude people everywhere, not just in France. Some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met were French. With that said, I want to talk about our visit to Ligny-le-Chatel, a village in Burgundy where we stopped on the way to Auxerre, the town where Pierre’s family once lived.
The purpose of our visit was to meet some close friends of Pierre’s late grandparents. A quaint village with a population of just over 1200, it had an impressive church and a peaceful, somewhat rural setting.
We arrive at the country farmhouse of Françoise and Jean Dapremont. Françoise comes out to greet us and I immediately feel welcomed by her affable and cordial demeanor. She is probably in her mid-late 60’s and like women of her generation, her hair is perfectly coifed and her language is pleasant and polite. She introduces her husband Jean and their little grandson Roland, who is staying for the weekend.
Their home is full of the charm that only a country house can give. There are worn windows, rustic furnishings and a friendly cat or two(?). We sit down for aperitifs while we chat about our plans – which, at that time, included our pending nuptials 🙂
As we sip our brandy and chat, I can smell the aroma of roasting meat and yummy goodness wafting through the air. Always aware that I’m the only non-French in the group, I have to harness my American tendency to act like an over-eager child when something excites me. So, when Françoise announces that dinner is ready, I quietly remind myself not to jump out of my seat and run to the table.
At the table, we begin our meal with a smooth and luscious terrine of coquilles St. Jacques (scallops), dotted with carrots and red bell pepper. Our main dish is a plate of roasted local saucisses. They are accompanied by petit pois that she served in a beautiful casserole. Les petits pois à la Versailles, she says proudly, handing me the dish. She explains that she got the recipe from a friend who once tended the gardens at the castle of Versailles.
Well, this ought to be good, I thought. And it is. One bite reveals tender peas, savory bacon pieces, and of all things, sweet and slightly wilted lettuce; a simple yet brilliant dish that I’ve adapted and present to you here.
Les Petits Pois à la Versailles
INGREDIENTS: (4 servings)
- 1 lb. Pasta (shells, macaroni, penne, etc.)
- 6-8 oz. bacon, cut into batons, or 1/4 inch slivers
- 1 (16 oz) bag of frozen peas
- 2 cups of romaine or iceberg lettuce, shredded
- 1/2 cup grated gruyère or parmigiano reggiano
- fresh mint
- Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente (about 8-10 minutes) and drain in a colander.
- Using the same pan, set the heat to medium and cook the bacon until the edges are slightly crispy.
- Next, toss the frozen peas and lettuce in with the bacon until the peas are heated through and the lettuce is slightly wilted.
- Add the cooked pasta to the pot and stir to combine.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with freshly grated gruyère or parmigiano reggiano and mint.