English Peas with Cauliflower Cream and Country Ham

1 head cauliflower
1 quart milk
8 ounces butter
1 pound English or green peas
3 cups panko bread crumbs
1 cup olive oil
3 lemons
8 ounces country ham
salt and pepper to taste

Take cauliflower head and cut florets from the stem. Place florets in a saucepan and cover in milk. Bring up to a slight simmer and cook until cauliflower is soft and tender. Strain milk from florets, reserving the liquid. Put cauliflower in a blender and blend until smooth. If needed, add some of the reserved cooking liquid to get it to the right consistency. Add butter, salt and pepper to taste.


Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. Add peas to boiling water in small batches and let boil for 30 seconds at a time. Strain and add to a bowl to mix with your cauliflower cream.


Melt butter and pour it over a bowl full of panko bread crumbs. Add olive oil and coat bread crumbs until it has the consistency of wet sand. Season the bread crumbs with salt then lay them in a thin layer on a baking tray. Bake at 300 F until golden brown. Rotate or stir as necessary. Once browned, remove from the oven, sprinkle with lemon zest, combine, and let cool.


Dice country ham into small cubes or bits. Add a touch of olive oil to a sauté pan and add ham rendered on low, stirring and scraping frequently until the bits are crunchy and crispy. Lay ham bits out on paper towels to drain the excess grease. Let cool.


Mix hot cauliflower cream with hot peas and check the seasoning. Add salt, a squeeze of lemon, and fresh black pepper as needed. Pour peas into the serving dish. Generously top peas with the bread crumbs. Top with ham bits as final layer.

Serves 4


Chef John Sinclair began his culinary pursuits as a Boy Scout cooking on an open fire during campouts. A native of Connecticut, he currently resides in the Holy Cross neighborhood and serves as lead chef at Longway Tavern.