Failed kitchen experiments and culinary hacks.

The New Year

01 Jan 2010

Collard Greens

For as long as I can remember, my Dad has been a big proponent of eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for luck in the coming year.  I adopted that superstition a while back without really wondering where that tradition came from.  After a bit of research, it seems likely that this practice was the result of a mistranslation and confusion between the Arabic word for fenugreek (Rubiya) and the word for black-eyed peas (Lubiya).  Fortunately for us, Lubiya won out and the Jewish custom of eating symbols of good luck on the New Year was brought to the American South by Sephardi Jews in the early 1700's.

The Civil War brought the black-eyed pea to a wider audience.  As General Sherman made his was through the South pillaging foods stores, crops and livestock, his troops left the black-eyed pea alone.  The black-eyed pea, also know as the cowpea, is purported to have been ignored as the Northerners did not recognize it as anything other than fodder for livestock.

From there, the black-eyed pea gained its notoriety as a symbol of prosperity, as they swell when cooked.  Served alongside greens, symbolizing money and cooked with pork, representing forward progress, this legume became the center of many place settings in the South on New Year's Day.

Black-Eyed Peas with Smoked Ham Hocks

  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 white onion coarsely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning (see below)

In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine the black-eyed peas, ham bone or ham hocks, and 6 cups water. Add the onion to the pot along with the garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until the beans are tender but not mushy, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove the ham bone or hocks, cut off the meat; dice and set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Serve over white rice with hot sauce and freshly baked cornbread.

Collard Greens with Bacon and Red Onion

  • 3 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 large red onion, chopped coarse (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds collard greens, coarse stems and ribs discarded and leaves and thin stems washed well, drained, and chopped coarse

In a deep heavy kettle cook bacon over moderate heat until crisp and transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but about 3 tablespoons drippings and in drippings remaining in kettle cook onions, stirring occasionally, until browned slightly and softened. Transfer onions with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

To kettle add broth, vinegar, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and bacon, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add collards, tossing until wilted slightly. Simmer collards, covered, 30 minutes. Stir in onions and simmer, covered, 30 minutes more, or until collards are very tender.

Creole Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons dried sweet basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon celery seed
  • 5 tablespoons paprika

Combine all ingredients. Store unused portion in an airtight container.

Black-Eyed Peas with Smoked Ham Hocks

Black-Eyed Peas with Smoked Ham Hocks, Garlic Rice, Collard Greens with Bacon and Red Onion and cornbread.