If you can’t judge a book by its cover, I’m in trouble, because this cookbook cover does me proud and shows my words and recipes in their best possible light. It’s a photograph by the brilliant Leigh Beisch, of a cherished family recipe shared by my friend Heather Watkins Jones. Her family’s black-eyed pea stew is hearty, delicious comfort food, worthy of the time it takes to simmer and welcome especially on this day when eating field peas and greens mean good luck all year long to Southerners, wherever they may be on New Year’s Day.No need to soak the black-eyed peas! This all goes into a big pot and simmers away — you need three hours of time to pass, but there’s very little to do along the way, and what a reward at the end. I love ham hocks but you could use Italian sausage with wonderful results.We had it with collard greens today for the good luck ritual. Cornbread doesn’t add to the luck but it’s always the right thing to do. I put sugar in mine and this time some green onions and parsley because it looks like greenback dollars and tastes delicious.
Happy New Year!
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or lard
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
- 1 1/4 pounds (568 grams) smoked ham hocks or hot Italian sausage links
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
- One 14.5-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
- 1 quart store-bought or homemade chicken stock
- 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
- 3 cups cold water
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- In a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re softened and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the ham hocks or sausage and garlic, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring often so that the onions soften and wilt but don’t brown.
- Add tomatoes to the pot and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes more.
- Add the stock, black-eyed peas, and 3 cups water. Increase the heat to bring everything to a boil, and stir well. Add the salt and pepper and adjust the heat to maintain a fairly lively simmer.
- Cover partially and gently simmer, stirring now and then, until the peas are tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. It may be necessary to add additional water if the mixture starts to look more oatmeal-like than stew-like.
- Remove the ham hocks or sausage links and set them on a plate until cool enough to handle.
- Cut away skin and discard it along with bones and fat, and chop the meat from the ham hocks; or crumble or slice the sausage into bite-sized pieces.
- Return meat to the pot and stir to combine well.
- Serve the stew hot or warm.