Friday, January 22, 2010

Southern Comfort

I'm more or less a stranger to Southern cooking - most Southern dishes weren't served in my house when I was growing up and only recently have I gotten interested in trying some. You may have noticed, and even remarked upon, the number of grits posts I've written recently. Here's a new twist, Blackeyed peas.

Aren't they pretty? I thought I'd show them to you before they got cooked, as they changed to rather boring browneyed peas once I cooked them. Not pretty at all. But, really, quite delicious.

The package directions said to soak them for a long time before cooking but one of the character flaws my teachers always remarked upon was my lack of patience. "Pamela needs to learn to be more careful." "Pamela is impatient sometimes." You get the drift.

So, I just sautéed some chopped onion and sliced garlic in olive oil in the bottom of a big pot, added the rinsed peas to the pot, covered the veggies with a mixture of half water and half vegetable broth, and set them to boil. I had purchased a smoked ham shank the day before and asked the butcher to cut it into three pieces. When the beans reached a boil, I lowered the heat and added shank to the pot. All this simmered together for a couple of hours, the beans softening and losing their stark black "eyes," the ham slowly breaking apart to spread its smoky richness all through the pot.

Served over brown Massa rice, it was truly comfort food, solid, sustaining and deep-down warming. We did find it ever so slightly bland, even with black pepper added at the table, until My Beloved hit on the idea of adding a little of Chilebrown's fiery hot sauce, dot by dot, and that made all the difference. The slight hint of heat and the richness of flavor turned Southern comfort into something lively and unexpected.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Chilebrown said...

Little did you know, I have given you a 'gateway' sauce to sink the pepper jones into your soul!

P.S. Word Verification "cookin"

Friday, January 22, 2010  
Blogger kudzu said...

May I suggest: adding some minced onion and a bay leaf to the simmering beans? Hot sauce is good, as is a sprinkle of "hot vinegar", tiny chile peppers in vinegar in a small bottle with a shaker top, a diner staple (and handy in homes) in the South for pepping up greens and beans. Glad you've discovered comforting blackeyed peas!

Friday, January 22, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Chilebrown, we've been surprised at how quickly the level is sinking in the hot sauce bottle. We figured it would last a year but now we are doubtful. :-)

Kudzu, did add onion and garlic to the pot but I like the bay leaf idea - next time!

Friday, January 22, 2010  
Blogger namastenancy said...

What kudzu said - vinegar, bay leaf, and well...maybe a couple of peppers in the mix when cooking. Black pepper is just not strong enough to hold up to those black eyed peas. You can also make a fabulous pot liquor to cook them in but that does take patience - simmering pig parts and/or these days for me, smoked turkey parts on a pot with onions, garlic, seasonings, HOT PEPPERS. Then, letting it cool, skimming off the grease and using that to cook the peas in. Southern soul food, a gift originally from Africa that keeps on giving.

Friday, January 22, 2010  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Great! Yeeks.
I was gonna say it might need a small splurt of something vinegary, but you got that with the hot sauce.
And, yeah, Kudzu. I never cook beans without bay leaves.
And, yeah, Nancy. It came from Africa, didn't it?

Friday, January 22, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Nancy, did the peas originate in Africa, or just the cooks? Delicious, in any case.

Cookiecrumb, another vote for bay leaf. Gonna do it next time.

Friday, January 22, 2010  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

I got bay leaves for you. Fresh ones, from a Turkish or Greek plant (I forget which). You can let them dry, and then seal them in a baggie for your next bean experiment.

Friday, January 22, 2010  
Blogger namastenancy said...

The gospel according to Google is that they originated in North Africa where they were known as "cow peas." It was introduced to India 3000 years ago and was a staple in Greek and Roman diets. Wikipedia says that they are native to India and were "poetically compared with young slim girls in literature in some languages in India in the pod form." In any case, they were introduced to the US by slaves and have become more and more popular as the decades pass.

Friday, January 22, 2010  
Blogger dancingmorganmouse said...

Ooo yummo, bean and ham soup - must be at least as good as pea and ham soup. Roll on winter!

Friday, January 22, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Cookiecrumb, okay, next time we get together, I'll ask. Thanks!

Nancy, you are a researcher down to the soles of your feet. Good info.

Morgan, I have to admit I'm ready for light salads and ice cream, but the weather isn't, yet.

Saturday, January 23, 2010  
Blogger tulsamom said...

We always season our Hoppin John with Cajun Seasoning like Tony Chachere's or Zatarains. This is what you have on New Years Day. You use the ham left from Christmas. I also put in onion, green pepper and celery.

Saturday, January 23, 2010  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Tulsamom, I like the idea of the recycled holiday ham for making Hoppin' John. I guess the Cajun seasoning is similar to the hot sauce we added and it really did liven up the flavors.

Saturday, January 23, 2010  

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