First a few words on French cooking techniques
A la française (lit. “French-Style”) is a technical term of French cuisine to indicate the cooking process, to cook with a small amount of water and covered with a lid. The ingredients + water moist give a very tender result, ingredients are almost steamed, not browned or burnt as they would be uncovered with a little liquid.
Petits pois is the French for peas (literally, this is quite cute “little peas”).
This means that French-style peas recipe’s main steps are to first pan-fry vegetables, moisten them a bit and cook them covered with a lid. You’ll see that the recipe is super easy, and quick which might be paradoxically it’s main tricky point. All ingredients don’t need to cook long.
This traditional dish is a great classic in France and what is fabulous is that it can both be served as a side of rustic country-style home cooking or as a delicate treat as part of a fancy dish.
A few more information to do it the French way
In spring, nothing is better than fresh peas for the farmers market. Pea season is short, April to July with a full season from May to June.However this recipe can be served all year long as frozen peas are fine. If you are using peas that are still frozen, reduce the amount of water as they will release water as they defrost.
Tender spring onion (green onions that are used from the white bulb to halfway of the sten) and an important ingredient of the recipe. If you don’t find any, you may replace by 1 white onion and 1 small leek.
As for lettuce, coarsely chop or shred lettuce leaves, or ideally use lettuce hearts. Iceberg lettuce works well too. Lettuce is added only at the end as we don’t really want to cook the salad, just gently poach them. You might want to skip salad though, some French are not keen on cooked salad.
I have added two ingredients here that may be optional: carrots, you can make French-style peas without carrots, you’ll get a babulous all green and white dish ; and without bacon. You can opt for a vegetarian version without bacon.
Some recipes add sugar, which I don’t think is necessary because peas naturally taste sweet.
No vegetable stock or chicken broth, water is fine as we want to enhance all the vegetables flavors, no need to add extra ones.
You’ll see cream in the ingredient list of some recipes in English. The French would definitely not add any crème fraîche (nor olive oil). This is a buttery recipe; quite rich as there is a large cube of butter, but it gives an incredible taste to this vegetable dish.