Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Year's Necessity: Black Eyed Peas

***Note: Sorry for the late New Year's post! Just coming down from the holiday buzz and back to full time work, and just getting around to posting this. Enjoy and I wish you all the best in the New Year!!!***

As a good Southern city, we are full of fantastic traditions from our unmatchable hospitality to our history of good parties and bourbon cocktails, and of course a food culture to be reckoned with. I am overjoyed to live here because I discover new culinary jewels everyday from our fair city. Because we are at such a crossroads, a multitude of good cooks have passed through our city and because we love our guests so much, those recipes stay in our already active kitchens.

This year I will continue to explore Louisville's food offerings. I want to go into the kitchens of our hometown and figure out what inspires us to create an endless flow of wonderful dishes. This is our food culture and I hope the coming year brings me a little closer to understanding it as a whole. I can't think of a better place to find local farmers who are appreciated and cooks who respect food. Such a combination can only bring us to great let's see what this New Year will bring.

In order to ensure good luck and prosperity, it is an absolute requirement to carry out the black eyed pea tradition. There are many ways to get these black eyed beauties in your diet, and I'll outline a few for you. However, this year I am going share the traditional recipe for black eyed peas served up with bacon, onion, garlic and spices and served over rice.

Some alternative ideas for black eyed peas:

  • Use them in place of garbanzos in falafel
  • Puree cooked black eyed peas and make a dip for pita or flatbread, season with cumin, olive oil, sesame seeds, and chili powder--I bet a little tahini would go well too
  • Prepare yourself some Texas Caviar. This recipe from Homesick Texan is the best I've found.
  • Whip up a Hoppin' John
  • Serve chilled black eyed pea salad on fresh blinis
  • Slow cook the black eyed peas with salted pork or a ham hock until they turn into some serious New Years prosperity...
Or, you can follow this recipe!
Traditional New Year's Black Eyed Peas
1 lb. Black eyed peas
3 Onions, chopped
10 Cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 lb. Bacon 
(my preference is a nod to Butertown's past: Fisher's Hickory Smoked bacon)
Chili powder
3 Bay leaves
1 T Homemade Chili Sauce (or your favorite chili sauce)
Fresh cracked black pepper

Get yourself a nice big pot and soak those beans. You can choose quick soak or overnight--overnight is usually the recommended. They will cook thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients. When the beans are soaked, drain the water and rinse the beans. Reserve.

In the bottom of your large pot fry the bacon over medium low heat. This temperature will keep the smoke level low, while rendering the fat you need to flavor the beans. Right when the bacon gets crispy, add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent. At this time add the garlic and sauté until you can smell its fragrance. Before you add the black eyed peas you need to add the thyme, chili powder, and chili sauce, then stir around to toast a little bit. Do not add salt yet...there is plenty of salt in the bacon and we'll adjust the seasonings at the end.

Finally, you add the beans and stir until combined. Add 8 Cups of water and bring to a rolling boil. After that you simply lower to a simmer and tilt a lid on it. From there on you can go take a nap, start a movie marathon, or do whatever you think will take 2.5 hours of your time. I like to check on my beans every once in a while just to see how the flavors and aromas are developing, and to see if there needs to be more water added.

After those two and a half hours you will have some phenomenal black eyed peas. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

This is best served over rice or with a healthy side of cornbread. I can feel the good luck sweeping over me already!

Enjoy and best of luck and prosperity for 2013! Let's make it a good one!

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