It was photo shoot day, and because the light at Hurley House is so beautiful, I decided to cook the food I planned to photograph (black eyed peas, stewed greens, and cornbread) at work. Once the photos were finished, the staff could enjoy the meal for lunch.
As I began cooking, several staff members asked what I was making. When I answered with, “Black eyed peas and stewed greens,” the collective response ranged from apathetic (“Huh.”) to outright disinterest (“I don’t like black eyed peas. Never have.”)
I carried on.
As the smell of onion and bacon, sweet peppers and garlic, stewing greens and crackling cornbread began to fill the air, the level of curiosity began to grow among my co-workers.
“That smells incredible. What’s in those?”
When the black eyed peas were perfectly cooked, the greens wilted down to almost nothing, and the cornbread golden and perfect, I carried the food out to the front of the store and began to take photos. The food was still piping hot when I was finished, and so I carried the pots back to the kitchen and told everyone it was all up for grabs.
Maybe it was curiosity, or maybe it was not wanting to offend the cook, or maybe it was the enticing way it all smelled and looked, but everyone grabbed a bowl and served themselves. I walked back to my desk, my own bowl in hand, hoping for positive feedback.
It only took about five minutes before the responses came flooding in.
“What did you do to make those black eyed peas taste like that? I had no idea that was possible!”
“That meal was comfort in a bowl. I didn’t even realize how badly I needed to taste it.”
“I’ve never had greens before…and now I want them all the time. Can I have the recipe?”
“This meal is unreal. Un-real. Like, what is even happening in my bowl right now?!?”
Don’t take it from me. Take it from a group of hesitant participants. These black eyed peas and stewed greens are going to change your life. Or at the very least, change your opinion on black eyes peas and greens.
The recipe for black eyed peas is below, and before I let you go, I want to share with you my strategy for making my New Year’s Day as simple as possible. Usually, when I wake up on January 1, I am bleary eyed and sleepy from the night before. The last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but we have to have black eyed peas.
Early in the day on December 31, I do all the chopping. Onions, peppers, garlic, and bacon. It all gets chopped and stored in plastic containers. I do the same with the greens, stripping the leaves off of the stems and placing them in the produce drawer loosely covered or in a big bowl. If I’m feeling really on top of it, I will pre-measure the dry ingredients for the cornbread, making the entire meal as work-free as possible.
On January 1, I pour myself a cup of coffee, turn on the stove, add ingredients, and retire to the couch. I put forth minimal effort and am rewarded with a steaming pot of heavenly black eyed peas and sweet stewed greens. Right before we eat, I mix the buttermilk cornbread and bake it, making sure it is piping hot for our meal. This work-ahead method is the New Year’s Day gift I give myself, and I am never sorry for the bit of effort it took the day before.
When you decide to make black eyed peas, remember we are looking for fresh peas. Not canned. Not dried. Fresh. They will either be in a cooler in the produce section, or you might find them with on the frozen vegetable aisle. Either way, this recipe is written for fresh, not dried or canned.
Finally, if you would like to add any manner of smoked ham hock or smoked sausage to the peas, it’s a great addition. But even without it, you will be rewarded with what I think are dang good black eyed peas.
Black Eyed Peas
- 4 slices thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, chopped
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 pounds fresh or frozen black eyed peas
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- In a large dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until fully cooked, but not crisp. Add the onion, celery, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, jalapeno, and garlic. Stir to cover the vegetables in the bacon fat.
- Saute the vegetables until they are fully cooked and beginning to take on color. This may take up to 25 minutes. The vegetables will first release their water, then steam, and finally begin to brown.
- Once the vegetables are fully cooked, add the black eyed peas, chicken stock, Kosher salt, Tabasco, and baking soda. The mixture will foam up a bit from the baking soda, but this is ok. Bring the mixture to a lively simmer (but not a full boil) and cook uncovered until the beans are soft. This will take about an hour.
- When the beans are fully cooked, remove from the heat and enjoy!