Black-eyed Peas

Black-eyed Peas

My mother is a gen-u-wine Southerner, so every year on New Year’s Day we’d eat black-eyed peas to ensure a prosperous year. I never really thought much about it, but it occurred to me recently that I’ve never heard anyone else mention this tradition. Turns out it’s one of those regional things that really hasn’t spread outside The South, which I think makes it even cooler. This year I made the dish based on Emeril’s Food Network recipe, and it turned out fabulous! Black-eyed peas are traditionally cooked with a few spices and ham, sometimes called “Hoppin’ John,” but we never used that name.

Emeril’s recipe was not only super easy to prepare, it also has a great combination of spices that bring out the sometimes bland flavor of the peas. I thought two bay leaves would be excessive, but they were right on balance. The only thing I changed is the meat; I couldn’t find a good ham hock so I used turkey ham, which has a great smokey flavor and is even a bit better for you. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly, and all the times were right on to end up with a perfect consistency. The tricky part of making black-eyed peas is getting them to be smooth, but not mushy. You have to remove them from heat at exactly the right moment when they are just starting burst, otherwise you end up with a huge mass of bean mush. This recipe worked well to prevent that.

I know you’re supposed to eat this on New Year’s Day, but I served it to friends a few weeks ago and it was a hit. Which says a lot, considering that these peas are not usually the star of the show.

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