Tuesday, October 16, 2012

a satisfactory pot - Black-eyed Peas and Greens

Yesterday ended up being a tad strenuous at times. I was making a meal for a family in my former homeschooling group (the mom had been the hospital with pneumonia and was just recently back home recovering), and suddenly I found my schedule ramped up by a couple hours so that I could hand off the meal while the father was up our direction. My unhurried plan for making dinner and driving it down went right out the window! So in the midst of scurrying around trying to get veggies chopped and cornbread baked I had a tiny blissful little interlude while fixing a pot of black-eyed peas and collard greens.

I theorize that in cooking, as in the rest of life, there are certain sweet spots. Perhaps in your life there's an ideal amount of yard work or a perfect running pace or a peaceful time of day to fold laundry. Whatever you're doing suddenly seems a little more satisfactory. The pace seems a little less frantic. Chopping the onions and searing the roast and stirring up pudding - those things all felt more of less like work. I had a schedule to keep, and gracious knows the one time you send your chocolate pudding off to someone else's house you don't want it to scorch. The peas and greens though. Those were different. I was still bustling around trying to get everything done, but there was something so satisfying in putting some fat back in a pan with a few seasonings and then stirring in the peas and greens with some chicken stock and letting it all simmer until the pot liquid becomes this rich broth just begging to be soaked up with some fresh cornbread. It's simple, instinctual fool. Soul food really. There's just enough slicing and stirring involved to enjoy cooking without it becoming tiring, and especially for those of us in the South it just tastes like home. My father-in-law is pretty darn southern, and he couldn't say enough nice things about this dish.

Black-eyed Peas and Collard Greens:

1/4 cup fat back/side meat/or uncooked bacon sliced into thick matchsticks
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots (or sub onion)
2-4 cloves minced garlic (around 2tsp)
2-4 bay leaves (depending on size)
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups frozen black eyed peas (I used 1 1/2  packages since that's all I had on hand)
2 cups frozen collard greens (or a similar amount fresh - I'll use either depending on what's available. You can also use kale or turnip greens)
Salt, pepper, red pepper (if desired)
Tamari Sauce/Braggs Amino Acids/Worcestershire Sauce

Put a heavy bottomed sauce pan (or cast iron pan) on medium heat and add your pork. While the fat is rendering mince your garlic and slice your shallots and then add to the pan along with the bay leaves and salt and pepper. Stir frequently for a couple minutes until the shallots and garlic start to turn brown and smell amazing. Pour in your chicken stock along with the collards and black eyed peas and a dash of Tamari Sauce. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and taste to correct seasoning. I like plenty of pepper on mine. You can also play around with a little cumin or freshly chopped marjoram. Simmer for another 15 minutes (up to an hour with low heat and enough liquid) and serve with fresh cornbread or biscuits.

Caveat: This is more cultural memory than recipe so all amounts are estimates. Just use your common sense (and your nose and your tongue), and everything will turn out great!

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