Summer in a single dish: that’s how chef and co-host of The Chew Carla Hall describes her “Last Supper" Buttered Tarragon Peas. They’re simple, they’re colorful, and in keeping with Carla’s expectations for a summer food, they are easy, although the situation that led to the creation of this much-requested dish was anything but.
As a competitor on season 5 of Top Chef, she had to cook a “last supper” for the legendary French chef Jacques Pépin. He asked for squab and peas, and she took that as a sign: one of her favorite dishes when she was a little girl in Nashville, Tennessee was peas and carrots. Her mom always had at least 15 cans of them on hand at any given moment, and even now, three careers later, all her friends know how much she loves them.
She created a compound butter, added the lemon – she loves a good pucker − and then, inspired by Chef Pépin, she grabbed the tarragon, known as one of the four fine herbs of French cooking. On the show, the competing chefs don’t really get to hear everything the judges say, but when she watched the episode on air and heard Jacques Pépin utter the words, “I could die happy with this dish,” she cried for joy.
Since then, she’s run into some of the other judges at that table − Marcus Samuelsson and Susan Ungaro – and they both told her how they loved those peas. When she published her first cookbook, Cooking With Love, so many people wondered why the peas weren’t included, which made her realize she’d better write another book, Carla's Comfort Foods. Funniest of all was the time she was boarding the train from New York to Washington, D.C., and in a crowd 20 people deep, a man shouted at her from the other side of the train car: “Carla! I tried to make your peas. What’s the secret?” “Don’t overcook them!” she yelled back above the crowd.
This is fun territory for someone who started her career in finance as a CPA, transitioned to runway model, and then found her calling in the culinary world. She has worked in some of Washington, D.C.’s best restaurants and found fame competing on Top Chef, as well as Top Chef All Stars, and became the biggest fan favorite in Top Chef history. Now one of the hosts of ABC's The Chew, she still loves her peas, along with other favorite summer produce like corn, tomatoes, and eggplant.
Hall’s first memorable summers were spent at her grandmother’s in Lebanon, Tennessee, but she loves her summers now in D.C., where there’s always an outdoor concert or event, and lots of people-watching. Cook salmon or roasted chicken to go with her magical "Last Supper" peas, add a glass of lemonade or sweet tea, and you're good to go.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided in half
1/4 cup minced shallot
2 cups cooked fresh or thawed frozen peas
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 cup water
1. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until just translucent, about 1 minute. Add the peas, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring, until heated through.
2. Add the tarragon, thyme, lemon zest, water, and remaining tablespoon butter. Cook, stirring, until the peas are glazed, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Recipe copyright © 2014 by Carla Hall from CARLA'S COMFORT FOODS published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.