My friend Elizabeth brought us some food last January when I was hired to teach temporarily with less than 24-hours notice and my life felt out of control. Some food is actually an understatement. She brought us a box with 7 or 8 big gladware containers filled to the brim and fed us for a week. Elizabeth is a chef, so it wasn’t just a large quantity of the food, it was of the highest quality. When I saw that box on my porch, I started to cry. It’s okay to cry at generosity.
One of the meals in that box was a New Year’s trifecta: black-eyed peas, collard greens and creamy polenta (just fancy grits, y’all.) I ate it at least four times. Let the record reflect that I have never counted myself a fan of greens and I only eat black-eyed peas a few ways, none of them traditional or Southern. But the peas were so good, I found myself daydreaming about them as soon as I thought about the new year, and I texted Elizabeth to see if she had any advice or a recipe. It took some investigating, but the recipe was found and I am posting it here for reference.
This is not a healthy recipe but sometimes you have to live and eat a lot of bacon fat. They may not bring me luck in the new year, but they remind me of the blessings of friendship and that makes me feel pretty lucky and very loved. I served these with Simply Recipes Collard Greens with Bacon and Polenta using the Cook’s Illustrated method (add baking soda to your water.)
Black-Eyed Peas with Bacon
1/2 to 3/4 pound bacon, diced
2-3 yellow onions, chopped
Kosher salt & pepper
2 smoked ham hocks, scored through the meat and fat
4-5 cups of chicken stock
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
Cook the bacon in a large stockpot over medium-high heat until it’s nice and crispy (10 minutes or so.) Add the onions and saute until they are translucent (2 to 3 minutes.) Lightly salt and pepper, too much salt makes the beans break up. Add the scored ham hocks, let them settle to the bottom of the pot and braise for several minutes on each side.
Add the chicken stock and gently stir in the black-eyed peas and remaining ingredients. Bring all ingredients to a boil, and then reduce to a slow simmer. After an hour or so, pull the meat off the ham hock, chop and return to the pot. Cook until the peas are done (1.5 to 2 hours.) Remove the bay leaves and thyme before you serve. Serves about 8.