When spring arrives, we are compelled to enjoy the pleasures of the first green peas, for there is nothing as naturally sweet as these tender harbingers of the new season. This dish pairs the bright and creamy pea purée with a crisp and flaky puff pastry vol-au-vent, which “flies to the wind.”
12 hors d’oeuvres servings
3 cups freshly shelled Spring peas
(or two 10-ounce packages frozen peas, thawed)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
Additional fresh mint sprigs for garnish
Thin radish slices, for garnish
For puff pastry shells:
3 puff pastry sheets (from two 17¼-ounce packages frozen puff pastry sheets), thawed
Egg wash made by beating 1 large egg with 1 teaspoon water
[Chef’s Note: You may also use pre-purchased puff pastry shells.]
Prepare puff pastry shells:
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out a pastry sheet to 1/8 inch thickness (about 15 by 11 inches), and cut out 8 rounds or squares with a 3-inch cutter. Roll out the second and third pastry sheets and cut out 16 more of the same size (There will be a total of 24 rounds or squares). Transfer 12 cutouts to a large baking sheet. With a 2-inch cutter, cut out and discard the centers from the remaining 12 shapes to make rings. Prick rounds or squares on baking sheet with a fork and brush lightly with some of the egg wash on the tops, being careful not to let the wash run over the edges. Center pastry rings on the larger shapes, pressing together lightly to adhere. Brush the tops of rings lightly with some egg wash, again being careful not to let the wash run over the edges.
Bake the pastry shells in the center of the preheated oven until golden, about 9 minutes, and transfer to a cooling rack. With a paring knife, carefully cut out and remove the pastry centers to form cavities.
These pastry shells may be made 2 days ahead and kept in airtight containers. Reheat pastry shells in middle of a 400° F oven until warm before serving.
Prepare the pea purée:
In a large heavy skillet, melt butter over moderate heat, and cook the peas with salt and pepper to taste, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes, until crisp tender.
Purée the peas in a food processor with the lemon zest until smooth and slightly cooled. Stir in the lemon juice. The purée may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered.
Bring the pea purée to room temperature. Stir in the chopped fresh mint and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the pea purée into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe the purée into the pastry shells, and garnish each with a slice of radish and a mint sprig.
Recipe and photo by Mark Tafoya