Sunday, December 31, 2006

Down-Home New Year's Blessings and a Recipe

Just got back from the store on a basic TP and kitty litter run. Whilst there I realized I needed to grab some black-eyed peas. If I call my mother tommorrow, she will undoubtably question me as to whether or not I ate my New Years Day black-eyed peas. But I'm not really complaining, the older I get, the more I think the crowder peas are more important the day after than the bubbly the night before. Funny how age turns a fiery punk rocker into a bewildered Fiddler on the Roof. (TRADITION! Tradition!)
Anyhow, so I'm scouring Top food for cow peas, and I can't find them anywhere. None with the dry beans and split peas. Hmmm... I saunter over to the bulk foods. None with the lucite mini-silos of lentils and garbonzos. Hmmm... wait! There is the futuristic micro-grainery where the split-peas live... with nothing but dust and and three lonely peas at the bottom. Dang it! I go back to the ready bagged beans, and looking closer, locate the slot where they should live, one or two stray peas on the shelf. I end up grabbing two of the last cans of Bush's black-eyed peas with bacon, and returning my smoked hog's necks to the meat freezer.
It's strange, whenever I've mentioned the country (most folks think Southern, but I picked up from Grandma and Mom, Kansas girls both) custom of eating black-eyed peas on New Years Day to insure a prosperous and lucky year, most folks out here in the NW, look at me like I'm talking about sacrificing a virgin to the harvest gods. I guess there's some country folk out here after-all, probably hiding their red-necks under long hair. Country-folk being the one caste in the US it is PC to mock and disdain, even more than Muslims.
So, with out further ado, I give you the Dragon's own Honky-Tonk Mama Approved Black-Eyed Peas Recipe.

2 pounds black-eyed peas
2 bay leaves
10 cups of water
1 pound smoked hog necks
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Cavendar's Greek Seasoning
1 teaspoon Cajun or Creole Seasoning
1 pinch cumin
1 pinch Garam Masala
1 pinch paprika

1. Before you go out New Year's Eve, or before you go to bed if you not a partier, pour the peas into a bowl and cover with water, adding a little extra to account for swelling.

2. When you wake up in the morning, and are making that morning cuppa or scaring up the hang-over cure of your choice, pour 10 cups of water into a big ol' pot and put on high heat. When the water starts to boil, throw in yer hog necks. A lot folks like to use ham hocks, bacon, and or cubed ham for this part. I am partial to smoked hog necks, they've got more better meat on 'em for your dollar, and lend the same smoky taste as hocks. Another good traditional is, of course the bone from your Christmas ham, and whatever scrizzlin's of ham might still be hanging around. I definitely prefer something with a bone, as the gelatin helps give the sauce some body, but to each his own. If you are using meat without a bone, or trying the Dragon's totally PC Vegan and Kosher variation skip ahead to step 4.

3. If you are using something with a bone, you'll wanna reduce your heat to a simmer, and throw in the bay leaves and salt. Then walk away for an hour.

4. If you are doing the boneless or meatless version, heat up a skillet (iron, of course) to medium and grease it with bacon grease (if you are using bacon, just chop it up and start cooking it, add the other ingredients once you've got a little grease in the pan)... OK, OK, you can use whatever oil you like, if you're opposed to bacon grease, but you don't know what you're missing. While waiting for the pan to warm, and then the oil, mince your garlic and onion. Once the oils warm (oh about 1 tablespoon of whatever should be fine, you just wanna coat the skillet), add your garlic, onion, and the rest of your spices. If you are using cubed ham, add it at this point. If you are trying the Vegan Kosher version, use dark sesame oil, and 3 or 4 good sized strips of Kombu seaweed. That should give you a nice rich, smoky flavor. Stir this and watch it, it shouldn't take to long for the meat to brown and the onions to start to turn translucent. You don't wanna fry any of these ingredients, just give them a chance to mingle flavors a little.

5. If you are using boned meat, nows the time to pull meat off the bones and toss 'em to yer hound. Keep an eye on that skillet, while you're doing this, and be ready to stir it and'or pull it off the heat, as the need arises.

6. Once you got no bones in your pot, and the contents of your skillet are ready, (this will also be the time when anybody else in the house will begin asking you when it will be done, as you will have filled your home with a heavenly aroma) add the black-eyed peas and skillet contents to your big pot. Reduce the heat to a very low simmer, cover, and tell the slavering maniacs trying to storm your kitchen, that it will be an hour to an hour and a half until it's done. That should give you plenty of time to nurse your hangover, watch a couple episodes of Firefly, and make your cornbread. Check it every once and while, and stir, and season as you see fit. I usually find it advisable to hold off on adding anymore hot or peppery spices, letting people season their individual portions. If for some reason you forgot to soak your peas overnight, well it's gonna be more like 3 to 4 hours of cooking.

7. When the peas are tender, serve it up with some cornbread, some greens (Kale is nice), and maybe some mac and cheese. After that you should be well over the hang-over and loaded up with enough luck to take the year's first bracing scooter ride.

Happy New Year everybody!


Mom said...

Now, if you are touting this as Mama approved, then I guess I need to read it over. Mmmm, yes, yes, this looks good. I wouldn't have thought of the garam masala, I'll have to sprinkle some in mine and see how it goes.

By the way, for folks who don't eat swine, smoked turkey legs work fine. For those who avoid meat altogether, a dash of liquid smoke adds depth.


Anita said...

Hi there! I was looking for a black-eyed pea 'traditional' New Year recipe to make while still in the first fortnight of this new year from a blog I have never visited...!

And I'm going to make this one! Your mom's comments are helpful too since I am cooking for a half-vegetarian household. Garam masala should make them feel right at home! Thanks.

Honky-Tonk Dragon said...

Anita, glad we could help. Hope you and yours enjoyed it!