Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

The New Year is almost upon us and, for those of us with Southern roots, that means its time to shop for those good luck foods and herbs that will bring prosperity, success and peace into our homes in the coming year.

Of course the favorite food for all around good fortune is the black eyed pea. These are actually a form of bean, vigna sinensis, and they are generally white or cream colored with a black spot. Sometimes referred to as cow peas, particularly in the Northern U.S. and the U.K., they are the primary “good luck bean” of the New Year.

There are lots of ways to eat black eyed peas and really they can be used in most bean dishes. Often, they are cooked for New Years with molasses and brown sugar, making them akin to the northern baked beans of Boston fame. This dish will be served for luck with cornbread (to bring coin into the house) and dark greens like collard or kale (to bring paper money). The like-makes-like magick of the side dishes is obvious, but the beans are not so telling. From what I know, they are simply considered “lucky” and especially good for relationships – such as a family household. Black eyed peas are added to mojo bags focused on marriage.

Our family tradition, which I learned from my father’s Aunt Bette, centered on a dish known as Hoppin’ John. This is a bit like the Creole red beans and rice and it makes a delightfully comforting meal to wind down the Holiday season. Here’s the recipe I use for your consideration:

2 15 oz cans black eyed peas (for luck)
8 slices of bacon cut in fourths
2 tbsps olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup chicken stock or water
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (to keep trouble away)
¼ tsp thyme (for peace of mind)
1/8 tsp rosemary (for luck)
1 bay leaf (for success)
Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the bacon in a heavy pot (like a Dutch oven) until crisp. Add olive oil and add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Cook until onions are clarified. Add black eyed peas broth, spices and salt and pepper. Cover and cook about 15 minutes, testing beans for doneness (they should be soft, not mushy) thereafter.

Serve over white rice with grated cheese on top.

I will serve this with the traditional cornbread and a not-so-traditional dark green: broccoli. My family isn’t big on collards. Bonne Annee ~

Header: Anonymous Victorian imagining of a Medieval Family at Table


Timmy! said...

I saw a recipe for Hoppin’ John the other day (I think it was in the Parade magazine in our Sunday paper) that left out the bacon (along with several other ingredients)... I'm sure you know what my reaction to that was, Pauline: Sacrilege! Your recipe is much better (and you never leave out the bacon)!

Pauline said...

Yep; that was Katie Lee's recipe and it is available online at Parade.com. Just throw in some bacon, folks :)