Smoky Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Stew

Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Smoky Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Stew

Smoky Spicy Black-eyed Pea Stew

As the New Year starts, we turn again to our black-eyed peas for luck. I usually go for something traditionally Southern, but every once in a while, I like to ring the changes and spice things up. This hearty stew has all the cold-weather comfort of old-fashioned Southern black-eyed peas with a fantastic hit of smoke and spice. I’ll admit, I am mostly a sit-on-the-sofa-reading-and-watching-movies on New Year’s Day person, but this is a great New Year’s Day meal for friends, guarantee them all some luck with an interesting twist to tradition – just put out some bowls and serve directly from the pot.

Smoky bacon and smoky sausage with smoked paprika add a great depth to this dish. Look for double smoked bacon for an extra hit. I love the balance of heat here, but stouter souls can substitute a spicier pepper for one poblano. And of course, serve some hot sauce or pepper vinegar on the side. A chunky slice of cornbread is the perfect accompaniment, but corn tortillas or corn chips are great as well. You can add a dollop of sour cream if you like.

Smoky Spicy Black-eyed Pea Stew

2 poblano peppers

8 strips of smoked bacon (double smoked if you can find it)

12 ounces smoked sausage

1 onion, finely diced

1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles

4 cups (1 32-ounce box) chicken broth

2 (12-ounce) bags frozen black-eyed peas

Char the poblano peppers over a gas burner or on a foil lined baking sheet under a high broiler. Get every inch of skin charred black, turning a few times with tongs to cover get all surfaces. Immediately place the charred peppers in a paper bag and fold down the top or in a bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap. Leave to steam until cool enough to handle, then rub off the skin, rinsing the peppers under cold water to remove any last remnants of char. Remove the stems, seeds and ribs then finely dice the peppers and set aside.

Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a 5-quart Dutch over medium high heat until very crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon to a small baking sheet lined with paper towels. While the bacon is cooking, cut the sausage in half lengthwise, then into little bite-sized half-moons. After you’ve removed the bacon, cook the sausage in the bacon grease until lightly browned and curling, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage to the paper towels with the slotted spoon as well. Drain off all but 2 Tablespoons of the bacon grease and let it cool slightly before adding the diced onion (if you drop the onion into sizzling hot grease, they will burn). Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the poblanos and the green chilies with their liquid and cook about 2 minutes, then sprinkle over the chili powder, cumin, paprika and salt and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook about 2 minutes until the spices are very fragrant, then add the garlic and cook a further 2 minutes. Pour in the can of tomatoes and chilies with their liquid and the chicken broth. Add the black-eyed peas and stir to combine, then bring a boil. Reduce the heat and cook the stew uncovered for 30 minutes until thickened and the peas are softened. Hold back a handful of the bacon to top the stew, then stir the remaining bacon and the sausage into the stew. Cover and cook a further 30 minutes or until the peas are very soft and cooked through.  Serve in hearty bowls, sprinkled with a little bacon.

Serves 8

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