Outside of New Orleans, I’m considered a bit of a rebel. For starters, I rise in opposition to fancy schmancy coffees and the joints that sell them–ordering a basic cup of Joe should not be a nerve-racking experience. I also refuse to form allegiances with people who believe you shouldn’t wear white after the Labor Day holiday. If it’s perfectly acceptable to wear shorts beyond that weekend, why not white? Have you ever spent time in New Orleans during the fall and winter months? And finally, I riot against anyone who limits grilling to summer, turkey to Thanksgiving and hearty, slow-cooked dishes to days with temps of 50 or below. Crazy stuff, huh? Yeah, they think I’m living on the edge!
So I suppose today I’m showing my defiant side yet again by cooking a rib-sticking pot of black-eyed peas right smack in the middle of the dog days of summer–something that’s common practice in NOLA. We’re talking thick, smoky black-eyed peas slow-cooked in a succulent bath of pork potlikker and served with a punchy bite of jalapeno oil. I hope that doesn’t make you nervous. I’m just out to prove the point that while seasonality has its place (mainly with produce as far as I’m concerned), it shouldn’t dictate what you cook, how you prepare it and when you eat it. Some of my Atlanta friends look at me cross-eyed this time of year when they ask what I’m cooking for supper (dinner to them) and I mention these black-eyed peas or something like Stew or Vegetable Soup. For the record, I’ve made a gigantic pot of Vegetable Soup every August for as long as I can remember so I can enjoy some now and freeze portions to get my family through fall and early winter. I may break a sweat during those meals. But hey, I cook what I want when I want it just like everyone back home. Hope you’ll do the same!
Black-Eyed Peas with Jalapeno Oil Recipe
1 pound dried black-eyed peas (preferably Camellia brand)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 pound smoked pork sausage, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 smoked ham hocks
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Lea & Perrins (Worcestershire sauce)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Jalapeno Oil, see recipe
Baked Rice, for serving (see recipe)
Rinse black-eyed peas thoroughly to remove excess dirt; pick over for stones. Place peas in a large bowl; cover with cold water and soak overnight. Or “quick soak” them: place peas in a large pot of cold water, bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat, cover and set aside for 1 hour. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook until browned on all sides, 4-5 minutes. Add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 additional minutes. Add soaked peas and liquid (“black-eyed pea liquor”), ham hocks and next 8 ingredients (through white pepper). Add enough cold water to cover peas by 3 inches. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add additional water, if needed, to keep peas from scorching. Towards the end of the cooking time, mash some of the peas against the side of the pot with a cooking spoon (this will help create a creamy consistency). Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve over hot cooked rice with a drizzle of Jalapeno Oil or your favorite hot sauce. Serves 6-8.
Jalapeno Oil Recipe
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt
Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Makes about 3/4 cup.