Serving black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a well-honored Southern tradition, meant to usher in luck and prosperity for the coming year; the peas are said to signify coins, the accompanying greens and cornbread connoting cash and gold. Black-eyed peas are also considered lucky in that during the Civil War, General Sherman neglected to torch the humble but nutritious crops, thus keeping many Southerners alive. (Cue Scarlett O’Hara monologue.)
The legumes often find their way into the Lowcountry recipe called Hoppin’ John, prepared with onion, cayenne, salt pork and rice. With one eye on tradition, I adapted my own version into a quick-cooking side, swapping thick-cut bacon for the hamhock or salt pork and adding greens directly into the mix. It tastes best made ahead, with time for the flavors to get to know one another, and the end result (served over rice, if you like) is deeply earthy and hearty, wonderful alongside roast poultry or served on its own. And I don’t know if it’s lucky or not, but I’m happy to have it on my table this year. Warm wishes to you and yours for a happy, healthy, delicious 2012!
Quick Black-Eyed Peas with Greens
serves 4-6 as a side dish (more if served over rice)
- two 15-oz cans of black-eyed peas, drained
- 3/4 C shallot, finely chopped
- 1-2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
- 1 C (packed) of turnip greens or kale, ribs and stems removed and chopped
- 3/4 tsp dried oregano
- 3/4 tsp celery seed
- pinch cayenne
- one bay leaf
- 1/2 C + 2 Tbsp chicken stock, plus more if desired
- salt and pepper to taste
- rice, for serving (optional)
In a medium pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until the fat renders out and it starts to go crisp, about 5-7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Take the pan off the heat; remove all but 1-2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan (reserve that fat for another use or discard).
Put the pan back on medium heat and sweat the shallots until translucent; add the garlic and cook, stirring, another two minutes. Pour a few tablespoons of chicken stock into the bottom of the pan, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Add the black-eyed peas, celery seed, bay leaf, and a pinch of cayenne. Add 1/2 C of chicken stock, stir to combine and simmer, 7-8 minutes. (If you’re serving over rice or prefer a saucier dish, add twice as much chicken stock, or to your liking.) Taste and season to your liking. Add the greens and stir to combine until wilted. Remove the bay leaf and serve over rice.
Note: to make ahead, prepare without the greens and reheat; add the kale or turnip greens a few minutes before serving to keep their bright green color.