Friday, November 25, 2011

Risi Pisi

by Sheila Connolly

Thanksgiving makes us think about our families and our past.  I have little family and none nearby, so we usually look for "orphans" to invite to the holiday dinner.  This year we hosted a vegetarian couple, friends of our daughter.  Anybody have a good recipe for gravy that doesn't involve turkey stock?  I'll save it for future vegetarian guests.

But in honor of family, this day after Thanksgiving, I've resurrected a side dish that my mother made regularly when I was young.  For me it's comfort food, and it's also easy.

Here's her original recipe card.  Can you tell it dates from the 1950's?  When I read it again, I had to laugh:  three cups of cooked rice, and one TEASPOON of minced onion?  You might as well just wave the onion over it.  And I cracked up at the "half cup of butter" added at the end.

Times have changed—but the can of Le Sueur peas hasn't.  I'm a committed locavore and I prefer fresh vegetables (as did my mother, with only a few exceptions), but nothing else tastes like Le Sueur Very Young Small Sweet Peas (you probably don't want to know that in French, le sueur means "sweat").  The dish would not be the same made with fresh peas or even frozen ones.  So here's my modernized version.

My Mother's Risi Pisi

2 cups rice, cooked in chicken or beef stock

(Footnote:  when my mother made it, Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup came with a little brick of stock and spices inside the envelope, and that's what she used.  Maybe it was brand loyalty, because her mother worked for Lipton.  You can use whatever kind of stock you prefer.  As for the rice, anything but instant or minute rice will do—just cook it as you normally would. I cook mine in the microwave, which is pretty foolproof.)

One-half a medium onion, chopped fine
Butter and oil—you can choose the combination, but the butter does add to the flavor
One can Le Sueur peas (15 oz.)
Salt to taste

While your rice is cooking, melt the butter and oil in a deep saucepan and sauté the chopped onion until it is translucent (do not brown).  Add the cooked rice and the canned peas and mix gently (you don't want to mash the peas).  Add salt and more butter to taste.

Et voila! A quick and easy side dish, that for me evokes good memories.

P.S.  Another of my mother's go-to side dishes was an informal version of succotash:  corn and lima beans with butter and cream.  Recently I was looking for a quick side dish and realized I had frozen corn and cream, but no lima beans (no surprise, because no one in my family really likes them).  What I did have was a bag of frozen edamame (soy beans).  I quickly steamed the corn and edamame together in the microwave, added butter, salt and cream, and discovered that I liked the results a whole lot better than my mother's version.  I think it's a keeper.

Do you have any comfort food recipes?

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  1. Sounds like comfort food to me! And I love that old recipe card of your mom's. Hope you're having a nice Thanksgiving weekend!

  2. Funny - I've been craving peas lately. Good timing for this recipe. I know I'll enjoy it. Your memories attached to this dish are priceless. Thanks for sharing all...and your home on Thanksgiving. What a lovely tradition to take care of orphans. In my twenties, I spent more than one Thanksgiving alone in NYC until a friend's family took pity on me. I'll always remember them fondly for opening their home to me that year.

    ~ Cleo

  3. Sorry I didn't get to respond sooner ... can I tell you one of my grossest comfort foods? We occasionally had egg noodles for a side dish (it's that German influence, you know) ... my dad always put ketchup on his, and so I did, too. If I stop to think about it, it's vile. Boiled noodles with a squirt of ketchup? But it's very comforting to me. :)

  4. Hi Sheila, those peas, here in Quebec, are named LE SIEUR and not LESUEUR. I would have thought of a mispelling if I hadn't see the picture of your can. I love them too.