Phil and I watched the Parts Unknown “Charleston” episode about a week ago. In the episode, Sean Brock discusses how “southern food” is the first cuisine of the United States. That statement got me thinking….how come southern food isn’t as all American as eating a hamburger? Southern food is primarily still only eaten in the south. Why? It really is the heart and soul of this country. How come it is not prepared in homes all across the nation? Is it because people have misconceptions about it? Do they find it is not approachable, or too complicated?
I really want the popularity of southern food to change, it’s too delicious to be isolated. I would love southern food to be cooked in all homes, regardless of your location. It is the original comfort food of the states. They don’t call southern food “soul food” for nothing. I know “southern food” is a very broad term, but most dishes that qualify as “southern” are amazing and have so much flavor.
So….just in time for the new year…..BACON BLACK EYE PEAS! Apparently, cooking and consuming black eye peas on New Years will bring you luck for the new year. Not that you need a reason to make these, but hey, that’s a pretty good one. Black eye peas are creamy and savory, and make their own gravy that pairs perfectly with rice. Traditionally, black eye peas are cooked with a smoked ham hock, but bacon provides the same flavor and is easy to find. There is some time involved, so plan ahead.
Bacon Black Eye Peas
1 lb dried black eye peas, (soaked overnight in water, then rinsed well)
4 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
2 bay leaves
10 thyme sprigs, bundled with twine
3 garlic cloves
4 cups of chicken broth
2 cups water
3 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
In a dutch oven, over low heat, add the bacon. Stirring occasionally, cook on low for approximately 25 minutes. You don’t want to crisp the bacon but draw out the fat.
Add the beans, onion, bay leaves, thyme bundle, garlic, chicken broth, and water to the dutch oven. Stir. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for approximately one hour, or until tender. At this point, remove the onion, bay leaves, thyme bundle, and garlic (if possible). If you prefer more creamy soft beans, simmer for another 30 minutes or more. Once finished cooking to your desired consistency, season with salt and pepper.
*Cooking for one hour will result in tender but firm beans that hold their shape. At this point they are perfect to be added to salad, stir fry or eaten as is. The longer you cook the beans the more they start to loose their shape and become mushy. Phil likes them tender and I prefer them slightly mushy. Different strokes for different folks!