Pea Shoots Recipe from Philip McGrath of Iron Horse Grill

A harbinger of spring, pea shoots bring flavor, and flexibility.

I admit it: I’m one of those contrarians who lament the demise of winter. No more bracing air, crunching snow, wood-smoke perfume. The Rossignols are sheathed, the Le Creuset shelved. Season over. 

Still, I know that it may be good-bye spiced cider, but it’s hello morels. Farewell flaming hearth, welcome fiddleheads. So long cassoulet, good to see you, pea shoots. Yes, any day now, pea shoots—those leafy, tendriled tips of the pea plant will huddle in their tangled bundles at the greenmarket. Spring, you’re up.  

Like the season, pea shoots should be fresh and crisp, glowing green.  Whether you choose the Chinese-style larger-leaf variety, or the delicate small-leaf variety, once you get them home, wrap them in paper towels in an open plastic bag and use them within two days. Trim off any tough ends and eat them raw in salads, or steam them, still damp from rinsing, in a dry, covered saucepan for about a minute. Best is a quick sauté with garlic and a finishing squeeze of lemon—just have a lot of them, as they shrink to almost nothing when cooked down.

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Philip McGrath, chef/owner of Iron Horse Grill  (20 Wheeler Ave, Pleasantville 914-741-0717;, tracks his pea-shoot revelation to Chinatown, where he first sampled the greens sautéed with shiitakes. Now, that same sauté accompanies Hudson Valley duck breast and foie-gras shumai (dumplings) on his menu, and the Asian influence extends to his “peas and carrots” staple: a haiku of wild striped bass or char, gingered carrot purée, and tamari/sesame oil/rice-wine-vinegar-dressed pea shoots. “They’re so versatile,” McGrath says. “They’re fragile but pack a lot of pea flavor.” Flavor becomes fireworks in another McGrath spring standout of smoked sable, his own backyard rhubarb relish, caviar-spiked crème fraîche, and lemon-kissed pea shoots. I’ve only one thing to say to that: book me a table. Oh, and what Rossignols?

Stir-Fried Pea Shoots and Shiitake Mushrooms                                                                                                           

Courtesy of Philip McGrath, Iron Horse Grill
(Serves 4)

1 lb pea shoots, tough stems removed, washed and dried                                                                                                                
6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, thinly sliced                                                                                                               
1 Tbsp neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed                                                                                                                            
1 medium shallot, minced                                                                                                                                          
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp chicken or vegetable stock, or water                                                                                                                  
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium-high flame. Add shiitakes and sauté until wilted, about 1 minute. Add shallots and garlic and cook until transparent but not browned, about 1 minute more. Add pea shoots and toss a few seconds, then add stock to deglaze pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.                            

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