by Emily Polsby
“I like to cook with spring peas because they contain the essence of springtime,” says Chef Cooper Bogard of The Inn at Newport Ranch. The Inn opened to the public in late 2015, and immediately thereafter they set about planting an organic garden to supply the inn’s kitchens. The inn sits on 2000 acres beside the ocean near Westport, and with the stiff salty breeze off of the Pacific, brassicas thrive. As a result, the guests’ plates are graced with cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. The garden also grows vegetables, herbs, greens, and flowers—and, in the spring, PEAS.
This versatile vegetable is light, crunchy, and sweet. It’s a great nibbler raw but can undergo high heat and fermentation without losing its crispness. It’s high in fiber and packed with vitamins, hitting that good-for-you-and-also-delicious sweet spot. Chef Cooper likes to remove the peas from the pod to add their fresh sweet flavor to his dishes in the form of tiny, caviar-esque packages.
The inn’s guests particularly like his spring pea fricassée with local ling cod, whipped herb crème fraîche, watercress, smoked chili oil, pickled mirepoix, and pea blossoms. “Pairing the seafood from this region with our spring peas is a great way to achieve delicate yet full flavored dishes that accentuate the sweetness of the peas and mild brininess of the fish's flesh,” he observes.
Chef Cooper advises home cooks that spring peas cook in a short amount of time, so don’t get distracted when steaming or sauteéing them as they can overcook easily. They are fairly easy to grow in most parts of the country. Ask around to find out which varietals work best in your particular hardiness zone—and remember, it's important to help the tendrils catch the trellis. If you grow them yourself, the blossoms from most varietals can be added to salads and pasta.
Keep this tasty spring staple in mind next time you want to add some fresh flavor to your dish. Beware when picking them— they are so tasty raw that it’s easy to deplete your harvest before you make it back to the kitchen.
Chef Cooper’s Spring Pea Fricassée with Local Ling Cod
• 1 c thinly sliced whole spring peas
• 3 cloves garlic
• 1/2 c mirepoix (2 oz. diced carrot, 2 oz. diced celery, 4 oz. diced onion)
• 1/2 c fumét (fish stock—see below)
• 1/4 c white wine
• 2 T butter to sweat the mirepoix
• 1 T butter
• 6 oz piece of ling cod
• About 3 c of bouillon (enough to
cover the piece of fish)
• 1/2 c basil and mint infused crème fraîche (see below)
• 2 oz watercress
• 1 T smoked chili oil
• 2 oz pickled mirepoix
• 3 pea blossoms
• Sea salt to taste
Start this recipe at least 24 hours in advance to prepare the creme fraiche and the fumét.
Cook the first three ingredients on low heat until translucent. Add wine and fumét and cook the mixture until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Add pieces of cold butter and rotate the pan slowly as they melt. Set aside. Poach the cod in bouillon. Whip the crème fraîche. Toss the watercress with vinaigrette. Assemble the plate by putting fricassée down first, fish second, then pipe three quarter sized dots of the herb creme fraiche around the plate, place a blossom on each. The watercress and pickled mire poix go on top of the fish. Drizzle chili oil over everything, then sprinkle sea salt over the fish.
Mix 2 c heavy cream, ¼ c buttermilk, 10 basil leaves and 5 mint leaves in a glass jar. Cover tightly with cheesecloth and a rubber band and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Remove the herbs, refrigerate mixture until cold, then whip with whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.
• 1 ling cod carcass
• 4 oz leek chopped
• 4 oz carrot chopped
• 4 oz celery chopped
• 3 bay leaves
• 2 T black peppercorns
• 1oz parsley
• 3 gloves garlic smashed
• 1 T ginger grated
• 2 T salt
Put all ingredients in stock pot and cover with ice. Turn on low heat until ice is melted and turn off just as it reaches a simmer. Strain and reserve liquid. Discard solids into your compost.
The Inn at Newport Ranch lies between Fort Bragg and Westport on the site of a former lumber chute. They strive to serve "North Coast seasonally-inspired ranch cuisine” and use as many local ingredients as possible alongside the bounty from their own gardens.
31502 North Highway 1
Fort Bragg, California 95437