Saturday, December 31, 2011

By Popular Request: Drunken Black Eyed Peas

My approach to black eyed peas is to treat them much like the rock in your favorite Stone Soup recipe. In order to make them work, you have to cook 'em with just about everything but a gym sock. So, this recipe is less a "follow the instructions" job, and more of a "go with whatever you have" kind of thing. For example, all men know that you can add bacon to this recipe. Just cook five or six strips until the fat is rendered, and then chop up the bacon and add it AND the drippings to your peas. If you didn't know that you could do that, then just step back slowly out of the kitchen. Everyone else, follow along and make your own modifications as we go.

Okay, you need:
1 package of dried black eyed peas
1 pound of sausage (sage is a nice touch)
1 medium onion, nicely diced
1 bell pepper, cored and seeded, also nicely diced
2-5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 box of chicken stock
1 bottle of your favorite beer (and use a real beer, okay? Something with flavor. Shiner Bock, or darker. Killian's Red or better. Get crazy. It's New Year's. Ditch Bud Light. You can't cook with it.)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of butter or evoo

Prep: Soak the beans overnight in water. Do it. It's not hard. Just cover the beans with water, about 1 inch over. If you're one of those busy bodies in the kitchen, you can go ahead and do your dicing and chopping.

Start with a medium sized skillet. Add butter or evoo and heat over low to medium.

Add diced onions and bell peppers and get them sweating. when the veggies have become clear and tender, add the garlic and the sausage. Moosh up the sausage so that it browns evenly and break up all of the big clumps. You want browned sausage crumbles, here.

While that's browning, drain your peas, which should have doubled in size overnight. Make sure you've got no dirt or debris in the peas. Drop them into a stock pot or other large cooking vessel. Add the chicken stock, about 1/2 of the bottle of beer, the contents of the skillet, and bring to a boil.

Taste your broth. You should be able to taste the beer and the chicken stock. Salt and pepper the hell out of peas. Add a bay leaf and any other herbs or spices you might want to throw in. Rosemary and Thyme are great, especially fresh. Just chop up a couple of table spoons worth and add 'em in. If you like your BEP spicy, drop a chopped jalapeno or a cup of your favorite salsa in. Do it now, give it a good stirring to make sure that the peas and the stuff you really want to eat are all evenly dispersed and coated. Cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.

Keep this simmering for an hour. After one hour, lift the lid, take a whiff, and give it a taste. Are the peas tender? They should be firm, but not hard. Easily mushed. Get a couple of peas with the broth, some sausage, and some veggies. What does it need? More salt? Are you nuts? You put the Sargasso Sea in there earlier--okay, go for it, it's your dish. Put your final seasonings in (Chipotle Tabasco sauce, for the win)...and then continue to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for another thirty minutes. If the liquid gets low, add the rest of the beer. If the broth is too strong, cut it with water, a little at a time, until you get the consistency you like.

These peas can be served over white rice, as it is basically a Hoppin' John Recipe. They will keep overnight, and taste even better the next day because of science and chemistry.

You're welcome, America. Merry New Year!
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