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Consider The Can: An Unlikely Twist On A Louisiana Dish

If you're under 10 years old, the ingredients to an Easter meal are probably self-evident: chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and Peeps. If you're older, the usual suspects may (or may not) be less sweet, but they're likely no less traditional.

Poppy Tooker, host of New Orleans Public Radio's Louisiana Eats, is no stranger to dinner table traditions — even if her favorite was a year-round affair. When Tooker was a child, her great-grandmother was still cooking, and her go-to side dish was something that, at first glance, might sound pretty typical: peas.

But being a Creole who had grown up speaking French, her great-grandmother always gave them a distinctive Louisiana twist. She called her simple dish "Peas in a Roux," and she served it often with meaty main courses.

Peas in a Roux may have been one of Tooker's favorite family dishes, but it took her years to get the recipe just right. She knew well how to make a roux, a tasty combination of oil and flour, but she was hamstrung by her taste for fresh veggies. "I kind of have a snobby attitude about my vegetables," Tooker admits.

It wasn't until she dispensed with the farmers market and turned to canned peas that she had her epiphany. "I was in the grocery store, and I passed a big end cap of canned petit pois — those little, teeny, tiny peas that are canned. And I thought, 'You know, I bet that's what Mamman was actually using. I think I'll give that a try.' "

Finally — after tossing in the peas, the juice, everything but the can itself — she rediscovered the taste she remembered so well. "Suddenly, I had completely and properly, finally, re-created my great-grandmother's recipe."


Peas In A Roux

1 can of petit pois peas

4 tablespoons bacon grease

4 tablespoons flour

1 large onion, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter

Make a dark roux with the bacon grease and flour: Melt the bacon grease in a saucepan. Stir in the flour and continue stirring over medium-low heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the roux turns a chocolate color.

Add the onions and saute 5 minutes. Sprinkle sugar on the onion and cook 2 minutes. Add the peas (including the packing liquid in the can), cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer peas for 10 minutes. Stir in butter and serve.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Roast lamb, baked ham, deviled eggs, carrot cake, these are the things traditional Easter meals are made of, unless you're a kid. If you're a kid, it's chocolate bunnies, jelly beans and peeps. Anyway, today's found recipe is not about those holiday treats. It's a tasty side dish from down south, a veggie that goes well with a meaty main course.

POPPY TOOKER: The dish is "Peas in a Roux," it was a dish that I remember and know so well from my great-grandmother's table.

SIEGEL: That's Poppy Tooker, host of the public radio program, "Louisiana Eats." And while Peas in a Roux is one of her favorite family recipes, it was years before she got it just right. First, you make a roux.

TOOKER: In Southern Louisiana, a roux is a combination of oil and flour, not butter, and it is cooked to a very dark brown color and it provides the taste, the color and often some of the thickening in virtually everything we make, whether it's gumbos, etouffee, everything starts with first you make a roux.

Because I cook in a totally different century even than my great grandmother was cooking in, I kind of have a snobby attitude about my vegetables. I prefer it if they're fresh from the farmer's market or, at the very least, fresh frozen from the grocery. That's why, for years and years, I was using frozen green peas in my peas in a roux. It looked very pretty. I thought it tasted good, but then I was in the grocery store and I passed a big end cap of (foreign language spoken) those little teeny, tiny peas that are canned.

And I thought, you know, I bet that's what Mamma(ph) was actually using. I think I'll give that a try. And when I made that dark roux and added that little bit of onions, stirred it up and then tossed in the can of peas, juice and everything, suddenly I had completely and properly, finally recreated my great grandmother's recipe.

SIEGEL: There you go, a secret in a can. Poppy Tooker, host of "Louisiana Eats" and her recipe for peas in a roux is on our found recipes page at NPR.org. You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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