Turkey day greetings to you, dear reader. If you’re like close to three-quarters of operators in Overdrive‘s audience this year — a figure a good deal higher than usual compared to past polling — you made it home or to a place of leisure for the day.
How are you spending Thanksgiving this year?
However you’re celebrating this year — whether socially distancing or with a good deal fewer people than usual (I know the last is certainly the case here in Nashville) — it’s never a bad time to be thankful for good food. To that end, something I’ve not done for a couple years now. A side-item recipe (find past cilantro-spiked slaw and collard greens via those links):
Black-eyed peas — perhaps my personal No. 1 among the legume varieties, and I’ve witnessed an unload of them once upon a time in Jackson, Tenn., that owner-operator Cody Blankenship may well recall…
This is a classic for New Year’s Day in the South, but I eat ’em all year long.
You’ll need a medium-large pot or dutch oven on a range — or a bungee’d-secure slow-cooker if that’s more your speed in the truck, where this recipe could well work all in the same pot.
**1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
**Two-three strips bacon (or other fatty pork)
**Small-medium yellow onion, diced
**Clove or two of garlic (chopped) or tablespoon of pre-chopped garlic
**1-2 teaspoons or so of dried whole thyme (or several fresh sprigs)
**2-3 bay leaves
**Enough stock or water to cover presoaked peas by about a half-inch to an inch in the cooking vessel
**Salt and pepper to your liking / Cajun seasoning in addition if desired
**Capful of red wine vinegar or other vinegar
**Soak the peas for at least a few hours in generously salted water (don’t leave out the salt — I feel like this is the key to the end result). If you go beyond that time, even better. The longer they soak, the less cook time will be necessary. Monitor liquid level in whatever container you’re using to assure it remains covering the peas as they expand.
**Fry bacon in your pot/dutch oven over medium-high heat (if using a crock pot/slow cooker, start it out on high and spend more time at every step, basically) adding onion when bacon starts to brown.
**Sautee onion with the bacon until onion’s translucent, adding garlic at that point. Cook another minute.
**Add peas, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper and stock/water. (If you’re not using stock with some measure of salt in it, I’ve occasionally ignored most cooks’ instructions to drain the soaking water for the peas and used that for this recipe, with good results. Depending on how salty that water is, though, this may or may not be the best idea for your particular taste.)
**Bring it all to a boil and then simmer until peas are tender and liquid has reduced and thickened. I simmered these recently for four hours and the result was a great deal of breakdown of individual peas, thickening the consistency to almost like a stew, which was fortifying. Yet I’ve also simmered for little more than an hour, with most individual peas remaining intact, and the result was equally flavorful.
**Final step: When you’re at the point of contemplating eating these, remove the bay leaves (and sprigs of thyme if you’re using fresh), and stir in the glug of vinegar and let simmer for just a bit more — taste, add more vinegar if flavors don’t pop just so.
Cajun seasoning, hot sauce, cornbread on the side? Absolutely. Alternately, corn chips with fresh cilantro, hot sauce, lime wedges for a little southwestern-type flavor. Yeah, that works too.
These keep well chilled and seem to get better with time and reheat — can probably serve up enough for as many as four-five meals on the road, I’d wager, if you end up liking ’em as much as I.
Enjoy the day.