Black-eyed peas and collard greens

Posted in Gluten-Free, Main Course, Side Dish, Spicy, Winter on Dec 31, 2009

World's Smallest Bite“Well, what should we do for our first produce challenge?” I asked my son, as he stared at the television. His head slowly rotated toward me, eyes panicked.

“I don’t like anything,” he stated.

“Yet, we’re doing this anyway, so what’s it going to be?” I waggled my eyebrows at him.

“I don’t care. You pick.”

FINE. I have picketh-ed. We are starting off the New Year** with black-eyed peas and collard greens.

Black-eyed peas are served on New Year’s Day in a traditional dish called Hoppin’ John in the southern states.
Linda Stradley at What’s Cooking America explains:

Hoppin’ John is a rich bean dish made of black-eyed peas simmered with spicy sausages, ham hocks, or fat pork, rice, and tomato sauce. This African-American dish is traditionally a high point of New Year’s Day, when a shiny dime is often buried among the black-eyed peas before serving. whoever get the coin in his or her portion is assured good luck throughout the year. For maximum good luck in the new year, the first thing that should be eaten on New year’s Day is Hoppin’ John. At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, many southern families toast each other with Champagne and a bowl of Hoppin’ John. If it is served with collard greens you might, or might not, get rich during the coming year.

Here’s where I admit that I’ve never actually tried collard greens, and I’m not the hugest fan of black-eyed peas. But I’m a fan of fun traditions, so we’re going to give it a go in a two-fer extravaganza of new foods. Plus, this is like the culinary equivalent of buying a few lottery tickets.

I’m so not burying a dime in the black-eyed peas though, because ew.

My friend Steph, the blogger behind the new cookbook Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking posted a recipe for Black-Eyed Pea Soup a year ago that we’re going to give a go.

When I dumped the black-eyed peas into my favorite blue mixing bowl and added water to soak, The Boy took a mighty sniff and declared that “they smell like dirt.”

soaking black-eyed peas

Steph says they are more earthy than other beans. The Boy says “earth equals dirt, duh.”

Black-eyed pea soup ingredients

Flash forward to this morning. The beans have soaked, and I’ve assembled the rest of the ingredients. Steph’s recipe calls for 1 cup of celery, but when I looked in my fridge, despite being super-sure that I had a fresh bunch, I discovered no celery. I’ve got a flippin’ Kiwano and a baseball bat-sized log of brussels sprouts (more on that tomorrow) but no celery. I substituted a green bell pepper for the celery, and I’m hoping beyond hope I didn’t just mess up the recipe irrevocably.

Here’s what went in:

1 lb soaked and rinsed black-eyed peas
1 cup diced hawaiian sweet onion
1 cup diced carrots (about 5 mediumish ones)
1 cup diced green pepper (one medium)
4 cloves of crushed garlic
4 Niman Ranch Andouille sausages, sliced
6 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon of italian seasoning
1 teaspoon kosher salt
About 6 good grinds of black pepper

ready for the broth

With all the ingredients loaded (to the very top!) in the slowcooker, I’m ready to contemplate the collard greens.

Collard Greens sort-of freak me out, but I’m putting on a brave face. In fact, the first thing I did when getting my two bundles of collard greens home was grab a bunch in each hand and do an impromptu cheerleading routine, using the greens as pom-poms. Gooooooo Big Greens!

Goooo Big Greens!

I whipped out my lettuce knife and de-stemmed the gigantic leaves, and then gave them a good wash, a spin in the salad spinner, and another wash. And then another spin. Does everyone else make revving motor noises when using one of these things? If not, I highly recommend it.

clean greens

We decided to follow Paula Deen’s recipe for Collard Greens, since I got to see Paula at BlogHer 09 in Chicago (briefly, from the back of the crowd) and her recipe seems fairly traditional, based on a brief survey of my cookbooks. Her accent also screams “trust me for your southern food needs.” That said, I’m going to scale back the amount of hot sauce she calls for, because my kids are total wussies when it comes to spice.*

Collard greens ingredients

Once again, I’ve managed to go off-recipe by the first step. Paula indicates that ham hocks, smoked turkey wings, or smoked neck bones should be added to the cooking broth, but I purchased a smoked turkey leg, so that’s what I’m using. I’m also using 1/2 the amount of pepper sauce, and I’m using Sriracha sauce instead of Tabasco, because I like the flavor better. I sort of winged it on the pepper, garlic powder, regular salt ratio. Here’s what went in the pot for the first hour:

3 quarts of water
1 smoked turkey drumstick, about 3/4 lb
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1/2 tablespoon hot red pepper sauce

Here’s what I saved for later:
1 big bunch of collard greens
1 tablespoon of butter

Getting the broth stuff ready

After simmering for a hour and fifteen minutes because someone forgot to set the timer, I added my prepared collard greens and 1 tablespoon of butter. By prepared, I mean washed, dried, stacked into stacks of 8 leaves, rolled like cigars and cut into strips. Paula called for 1 large bunch – I used two small bunches which netted me a loosely filled gallon sized ziplock baggie of uncooked greens.

Greens in the pot

I probably could have used double or even three times the greens. I think I might have made a mistake by simmering with the lid on the whole time. It was super, super juicy – more like a soup. At 50 minutes after adding the greens, I pulled the lid off and started fishing the greens out of the liquid. They were melt-in-your-mouth tender, and smelled heavenly. The smoked turkey was falling off the bone, and although Paula’s photo showed a glistening but relatively intact pile of greens without a bunch of meat chunks, I was looking at a mess of wilted greens floating in a ton of broth, with meat chunks. Whatever, I just went with it.

I dished up the soup, opting to skip Steph’s recommended step of smooshing some of the beans to thicken the soup. I really liked the appearance of the clear broth with the veggies and sausages. I gave it a test and realized that the andouille had added plenty of heat to the broth, and no Tabasco was going to be necessary.

Finished soup

I served the greens on the side in little ramekins because we are fancy.

finished greens

As a last minute inspiration, I whipped up some cornbread from a mix, and called everyone to the table.

And the verdict is?

The grownups – Yum! I ended up dumping my greens into my soup and making a big old mess of it. While I’m pretty sure I overcooked the greens, I won’t hesitate to attempt them again – and the soup was made of awesome.

The Chef and Sous Chef – They liked the soup, although the heat from the sausage was a little intimidating for them. Next time, they’d prefer a milder sausage. Although they both said the collard greens looked barfy, they both ate them without any drama, and found them downright edible.

The Boy – He was not enthusiastic going in. He’s pretty reliable with eating beans, but was making noise about how he doesn’t like “peas.” He ate a few decent bites of the soup, but said it was too spicy.

not enthusiastic

The greens were not his favorite, mostly due to texture. He’s not ruling them out for future attempts, but after a couple of fork-loads, he concentrated on his cornbread.

I’m going to consider this a partial victory. Onward!

*With the exception of a few random things, like The Boy will actually eat Shin Ramyun Hot Spicy Noodle Soup from our Asian Grocery Store, and The Chef likes spicy dried squid. My husband is half-Korean, and was raised eating some unusual-to-me snacks and meals. I personally haven’t made friends with a lot of Korean cuisine yet, but every chance the kids have had to try it, I encourage it.

**Yes, I realize that we jumped the gun and had these before the new year dawned. I figured we had a pretty good chance that the kids would think these were barfy, and good luck aside, who wants to force someone to start off a new year with a bad-to-you taste in your mouth? Besides, the kids are spending the night with my parents on New Year’s Eve, so I can just send some of the leftovers (and whoo-boy do we have leftovers) along with them when I drop them off. Heh.

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2 to “Black-eyed peas and collard greens”

  1. YAY! What a prosperous way to start the New Year! I’m so glad that you started this up—-I can’t wait to read the developments.

    I haven’t ever had collard greens. I need to give them a go.

    xoxo steph

  2. Jenny says:

    Thanks for introducing me to the wonders of black-eyed peas. WHO KNEW? (Hint: not me.)

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