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.

Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

I adore chestnuts and when they start to turn up in the shops around the holidays, I go a little nuts (pun intended!) and stock up. What I mean here are the ready peeled and cooked version, sold vacuum packed or in jars. They are so easy to use and so very wintery and festive. I use them in lots of savory recipes, like this lovely Roasted Chestnut Bisque or a hearty Pasta with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Sage. But chocolate and chestnut is a wonderful, rich combination with a very indulgent and celebratory feel. It has, to me, a sort of old world, old fashioned charm that is perfect for the festive season. And this dessert delivers.

This is everything you want in a holiday dessert. Rich, decadent, elegant and it can be made ahead – like five days ahead – and tucked in the fridge. In the photo here, I brushed the top with some edible gold powder, but the decorative options are endless. Candied chestnuts, curls of chocolate – white or dark – fancy glitter or sprinkles, powdered sugar, a sprig of holly. Small slices are rich enough (thought there is nothing wrong with a big piece) and very rich, but you could add a dollop of whipped cream to the plate. I tend to call this elegant because it is stunning on a silver tray and fine china dessert plates, but it would look just as attractive on a wooden slab served on pottery dishes as a more rustic sweet.

Chocolate Chestnut Terrine

For the Filling:

14 ½ ounces roasted and peeled chestnuts

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

4 ounces 70% dark chocolate

3 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons cognac, brandy or chestnut liqueur

For the Ganache:

4 ounces 70% dark chocolate

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon heavy cream

Process the chestnuts and sugar in the bowl of a food processor until fairly smooth. Put the butter, chocolate and milk in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla and cognac. Add to the chestnuts in the food processor and process until the mixture is smooth. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, smoothing it out as much as possible. Leave lots of overhang to wrap the top fully. Scoop the filling into the pan and smooth the top, pressing It down to fill the corners. Cover the top with the plastic, then chill for at least 24 hours.

For the topping:

Melt the chocolate, butter and cream in a small saucepan, stirring frequently, until smooth. Unwrap the top of the filling and then invert it onto a serving platter. Spread the chocolate ganache over the top and sides. Place in the fridge, uncovered, until set, then loosely cover with plastic wrap and keep for up to four days.

Serves 8

Nutella Cake with Chocolate Ganache

I cut out a recipe from a magazine ages ago that has become a real emergency staple for me – Nutella Cookies. It is literally a jar of Nutella, a cup of flour and an egg beaten together, rolled into balls and rolled in granulated sugar. It’s the perfect last minute recipe because its easy to have those ingredients always on hand. I send them to my nieces at college in care packages, and whip them up if I need to take a last minute treat to a friend. Eventually, this got me thinking about baking other treats with Nutella, and I landed on a Bundt cake. I found several simple recipes on the internet, and with some tinkering ended up with a version that I really liked.

That being said, the first time I made this, I served it straight up and it was delicious, but I felt like I wanted something a little more decadent. Unadorned, it felt more like a breakfast or a snack cake than dessert to me. So I have since added this rich, glossy chocolate ganache. It takes it from a playful little sweet to an elegant dessert worthy of the best parties. You could even get fancy and call it a chocolate and hazelnut or gianduja cake if you want! I also love that the ganache holds onto the lovely shards of hazelnut with their amber and taupe autumn colors. That’s also why I make it in a tube pan – I find the flat top allows for a deep layer of frosting and the delicate hazelnut garnish. You can certainly make it in a bundt pan instead. One of the many attributes of this cake is that it serves a crowd, so it is perfect for a party.

Nutella Cake with Chocolate Ganache

For the Cake:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

1 cup Nutella (1 jar)

2 ¾ cups flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

For the Ganache:

5 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate

¾ cup heavy cream

¼ cup chopped hazelnuts

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a tube pan with baking spray.

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer to break it up, then add the sugar and beat on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the Nutella until completely combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the flour, baking powder and salt alternately with the milk and beat until smooth and combined, again scraping the bowl. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top, then bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 – 50 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert on a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Ganache:

When the cake is cool, break the chocolate into a small bowl. Heat the cream until it is almost boiling, just bubbling away around the sides, then pour it over the chocolate. Leave it for a minute or two, then stir vigorously until the chocolate is melted, thick and smooth. Spoon the ganache slowly over the top of the cake, letting a little drip down the sides. While the ganache is wet, sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the ganache so they adhere to the surface.

Serves 12

Good Luck Gumbo

Enjoy this repost one of my favorite New Years’ Day recipes from 2011.

I am not an overly suspicious person. Sure, I have my little quirks, but I don’t worry about black cats, walking under ladders, throwing spilled salt over my left shoulder. But there are a few traditions that I adhere to because, well, it can’t hurt. Particularly if that tradition involves delicious food. So on New Year’s Day, I always eat black-eyed peas and greens. For luck and prosperity. Sometimes I eat them separately, but this gumbo includes all the ingredients for a good year. The traditional ingredients of good-luck hoppin’ john (rice and black-eyed peas), which is another New Year tradition in the South, plus greens for prosperity. Here’s a little more information on Southern luck traditions.

This gumbo can be made the day before and reheated, which is a boon if you have been out all night celebrating. Just reheat, cook some rice and add the collards. I highly recommend using smoked ham hock stock. It really gives the gumbo a smoky, earthy, rich flavor. Making it in the slow cooker is a breeze, and you can do it ahead of time. If you can’t manage, look for ham stock at some grocery stores, or use the combo of chicken and beef.

Good Luck Gumbo

1 pound smoked sausage, such as kielbasa

2 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 onion

1 green pepper

4 stalks celery

1 Tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon creole seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)

6 cups ham hock stock*, or 4 cups chicken stock and 2 cups beef stock

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 pound black-eyed peas, fresh or frozen and thawed

1 ½ cups long grain white rice

3 ½ cups water

1 small bunch collard greens

Cut the smoked sausage into bite-size cubes. Heat the oil in a 5 quart Dutch oven, add the sausage and cook over medium high heat until the sausage begins to brown. Finely chop the onion, seeded bell pepper and celery. I do this in a small food processor, one vegetable at a time, pulsing to chop the vegetable finely. Add the “trinity” vegetables to the pot and stir. Cover the pot and cook for five minutes to soften the vegetables, then remove the cover, stir well and cook until everything is nice and soft and any liquid has evaporated. Stir in the flour and cook a further minute, then stir in the creole seasoning. Pour in the stock and the canned tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes uncovered, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and continue cooking for another half an hour. The gumbo should reduce and thicken slightly. The gumbo can be made up to this point, cooled and refrigerated, covered, overnight.

When ready to serve, cook the rice. Stir the rice into the water in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil and boil until almost all the water is absorbed and little air bubbles form in the rice, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and tightly cover the pan.

Cut the collard leaves in half and cut out the stems. Stack the leaf halves, three at a time, on top of each other and roll up like a cigar. Cut the leaves into thin ribbons. You can further chop the collard ribbons if you’d like.

Heat the gumbo to a low boil over medium high heat. It will thicken as it sits, but loosen up when heated. But add a little water if you need to get things moving. Add the collards, stir, and cover the pot. Cook until the collards are tender and wilted, about 5 minutes. Serve over cooked rice. If you have saved some ham hock meat from making the stock, dice that and stir it into the gumbo as well. And if you’d like, sprinkle some hot sauce over the gumbo.

*Smoked Ham Hock Stock

Hock Stock is an amazing cooking medium for field peas, beans and greens, as well as a great base for soup or gumbo. I always look for a naturally smoked hock (not one that has no artificial smoke flavoring added). I get these from farmers market vendors when I can, and make a batch of stock to freeze. I can then have to the long, slow cooked taste in quick versions of my favorite southern dishes.

1 large smoked ham hock, cut into three pieces

1 onion

2 carrots

2 celery stalks

1 Tablespoon black pepper corns

3 bay leaves

Place all the ingredients in the crock of a large slow cooker. Add 10 – 12 cups of water to fill the crock. Cook on the low setting for 10 – 12 hours. Strain the solids from the stock and refrigerate for several hours. When the stock is cold, skim any solidified fat from the top and discard. Strain the stock through cheesecloth to remove any last bits of debris.

If you’d like, pull the meat from the ham hock pieces and dice. It is a great addition to any soup or beans you are cooking with the stock.

The stock will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or can be frozen for up to a year. The same goes for the hock meat, in a separate container from the stock.

Makes 6 – 8 cups

Gorgonzola and Rosemary Gougères

I discovered gougères quite by accident when I was a teenager curious in the kitchen, though not at that point by the name gougères. I found a recipe for cheese pastry puffs in a cookbook or a magazine and gave them a try. They were such a hit, particularly with one family we used to have for dinner, that I made them over and over and over again. I think I wanted that family to come to dinner so I could make the little puffs and bask in the praise. Years later, when I really got serious about cooking, I discovered that those simple little bites where in fact a classic of French cuisine. It’s a traditional choux pastry with the added cheese, which will impress your guests when you say “oh, it’s just a basic choux puff.”

My original version used parmesan cheese, more traditionally gruyere is the cheese component. Gougères are spectacularly adaptable. I include a pimento cheese version in Pimento Cheese The Cookbook, and I vary the combinations frequently. This particular version has become a favorite, but honestly it was born from the ingredients I had on hand in the fridge. Making gougères takes a little elbow grease, but it is not difficult by any means. And they are a perfect holiday appetizer, as they can be made ahead, frozen and baked just before serving. And they never fail to impress. They are traditionally served with wine or champagne, and there is nothing better than a warm, cheesy gougère with a cold glass of bubbles, so it makes an elegant sanck on New Years Eve.

Gorgonzola and Rosemary Gougères
Yields 24
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1 cup flour
  4. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  5. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  6. 4 eggs, at room temperature
  7. 4 ounces finely crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  8. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  9. Coarse salt, like Maldon
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the butter into chunks and put it and the water into a large, sturdy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to melt the butter. When the butter is melted and the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and dump in the flour, salt and pepepr in one go. Stir vigorously with a sturdy wooden spoon. It will all come together in a big ball. Continue cooking for about two minutes, stirring constantly. You want to cook out any raw flour taste. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for about 4 minutes, so the eggs won’t cook when they come into contact with the dough.
  3. Stir the eggs in one at a time until you have a smooth dough a little looser than what you started with. Make sure the egg is completely incorporated. Stir in the cheese and rosemary until everything is completely combined and the cheese is evenly distributed. This all takes a little elbow grease.
  4. Scoop the dough onto the prepared sheets using a cookie scoop or rounded tablespoon. Space them about 1/2 inch apart. Sprinkle the top of each gougère with a bit of a pinch of coarse salt. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350° and bake a further 15 minutes until they are puffed and golden and lovely.
  5. Serve warm.
Notes
  1. Scoop the dough onto a parchment lined and freeze until firm. Transfer to a ziptop bag and freeze up to a month. Bake the puffs from frozen, adding a few minutes to the final cooking time.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Gumbo Z’Herbes

Gumbo Z'Herbes

Gumbo Z’Herbes, or green gumbo, is a very traditional Creole dish that you do not find all that often. The magnificent Leah Chase at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant is famous for hers, and she serves it primarily the traditional way – on Holy Thursday (before Good Friday). Gumbo Z’herbes is said to bring luck and strengthen the body, and that for each type of green you put in the pot, you will make one new friend in the coming year. The traditional number seems to be nine, with eleven greens being a real bonus, and odd numbers are said to bring even more luck.

I have only had professionally made Gumbo Z’Herbes once in new Orleans, but it is a tradition and a dish that has always intrigued me, so I set out to do some research. I read recipes I found in some old Louisiana cookbooks and online. And the variations are endless. So I took all that information onboard and created this recipe. I generally don’t use as many as nine greens, because I can’t usually track that many down. And some of the recipes used very regional ingredients like pickled pork that I just don’t have access to. Some versions take all day to prepare and cook, some take shortcuts. Some have up to seven different kinds of meat, from pork shoulder to boudin while some insist this should be a vegetarian dish for lent. I am not claiming this is the definitive version of Gumbo Z’Herbes, but it’s mine.

Though traditionally a dish for Lent, I think it is perfect for New Years Day, when eating greens is said to bring prosperity and eating pork is said to be a symbol of progress in the New Year. I say the more greens and pork the better!

Gumbo Z'Herbes
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 pounds of mixed greens: Mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, kale, spinach, flat leaf parsley, watercress, chard, dandelion (see note)
  2. 1 cup vegetable oil
  3. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 2 cups finely diced yellow onion (about 1 onion)
  5. 1 cup finely diced green bell pepper (about 1 pepper)
  6. 1 cup finely diced celery (about 2 stalks)
  7. 1 Tablespoon cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)
  8. 1 ham hock
  9. 10 cups hot water
  10. 1 pound Andouille sausage
Instructions
  1. Strip any thick stalks from the greens (particularly collards, mustard, turnip and kale) and place all the greens in a sink or large bowl full of water. Swish them around a couple of times and let them soak about 5 minutes. Lift the greens out of the water into a large colander. Dirt and silt from the greens will settle at the bottom of the sink, so gently lift them out to prevent the dirt getting back on the greens. Shake the greens to drain. Chop piles of the greens into bite size pieces and return them to the colander.
  2. Now we are going to make a roux. In a large (at least 7 quart) heavy pan (I like cast iron or enameled cast iron), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth and lump-free. Cook the roux, stirring frequently, until the color begins to darken. As it deepens, stir more frequently, then constantly, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. As it darkens, it can burn quickly so pay attention. I use a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon for my roux. When the roux has turned a deep brown, between the color of sweet tea and a good bourbon, after about 15 minutes, add the chopped onion, celery and bell pepper and stir well. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the creole seasoning. Now slowly pour in the hot water (hottest from the tap is fine, or bring some to a simmer in a pot), stirring constantly. The roux may appear to curdle or seize, but keep stirring, it will smooth out. Add the ham hock, then all the greens, a handful at a time, stirring them down to fit in the pot. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer the gumbo for 1 ½ hours.
  3. Scoop about a third of the greens into a food processor or blender with a nice dose of potlikker, at least a cup, and puree until smooth. Return the pureed greens to the pot. Remove the ham hock and carefully pull the meat of the bones. If needed, chop it into bite-sized pieces and add back to the gumbo. Slice the andouille into thin half moons about 1/8 inch thick and add to the pot. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes more.
  4. Serve in big bowls. The gumbo on its own is a little soupy. Serve it over rice to soak up some of that potlikker if you’d like, or with nice hunks of French bread or cornbread to sop it up.
Notes
  1. Head to a good Southern market, farmers market or an Asian grocery to track down all the greens. Many recipes use carrot tops as one of the greens, so if you can find those. Same goes for beet tops and radish tops. Green chard, cabbage, arugula and romaine will also work. Just weigh out 3 pounds.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Slow Cooker Southern Black-Eyed Peas

Slow Cooker Black-Eyed Peas

I feel very strongly about the importance of eating black-eyed peas on New Years day to ensure luck for the coming year (and greens for prosperity). But New Years Day is also not always a day I want to be slaving over the stove. Peas and greens are generally pretty hands off foods, but this has got to be the simplest recipe around for getting your dose of good luck with a nice punch of flavor. I only use the slow cooker, so no extra pots are necessary. Pre-chopped, frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes make this an even simpler prep, but the spices and cured pork add deep, rich flavor.

Start this in the morning to have for dinner, or cook it overnight for a nice lunch. Scoop it as is into generous bowls, or serve it over rice or grits. Some Cast Iron Collards served on the top would make a one bowl meal full of good things for the New Year.

Slow Cooker Southern Black-Eyed Peas
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  2. 10 ounces frozen vegetable seasoning mix (onion, green peppers, celery)
  3. 1 piece of cured pork (about 5 ounces) – country ham shank, ham hock, smoked ham, salt pork
  4. 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
  5. 4 cups chicken broth
  6. 1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  7. 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  8. ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  9. ½ teaspoon celery salt
  10. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1 jalapeno pepper
  12. 4 cloves garlic, peeled
Instructions
  1. Cut the butter into pieces and place it in the slow cooker set to high until it begins to melt. Add the vegetables and pork, cover and cook for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the butter is melted. Add the peas, broth, 2 cups water and tomatoes and stir well. Stir in the paprikas, celery salt and pepper. Drop the whole pepper and the garlic cloves into the pot and cover.
  2. Cook the peas on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours until the peas are tender. Discard the pork and the jalapeno and serve. If using ham hock or smoked ham, you can shred the meat and stir it into the peas.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Cast Iron Collards

Cast Iron Collards

I adhere very solidly to tradition of eating black eyed peas and greens on New Year’s day for luck and prosperity.  I have a wonderful New Year’s Eve tradition, so on New Year’s Day, I usually sleep in, then curl up on the couch with a book while a pot of peas and some collards stew away on the stove – minimal prep and minimal work.  But this cast-iron skillet, bacon-fried version of collards is a quicker method, if you don’t get around to cooking until its almost time for dinner. If you really sleep in after a night out. Or they make an excellent accompaniment to a  bowl of slow-cooked peas.

I think these are collards for people who don’t like collards.  The bacon of courses helps, as does the fact that these are thin strands of greens, rather than a big leaf.  And the sugar slightly caramelizes the greens and the bacon, adding an interesting touch of sweet.  A big bunch of collards wilts down to a small amount – this makes about 2 cups of cooked greens, so its just enough for a small side.  These are really interesting used as a garnish on a big bowl of black eyed peas or hopping john, just place a tangle of the collards on top. They could even add an extra dimension to soft, slow cooked collards.  You can certainly double the recipe or make multiple batches.

Cast Iron Collards

1 large bunch collard greens

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

6 strips bacon

1 garlic clove

a pinch of red pepper flakes

1 Tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

Cut the leaves of the collards away from the hard center stems.  Stack the leaves up in bunches of about 6, then roll each bunch into a cigar.  Cut the collards into thin ribbons. Place the collard ribbons in a colander, shuffling them around to make sure they are well separated.  Rinse the collards thoroughly and shake as much water of as possible.  Lay the collard ribbons out on a tea towel, then roll them up in the towel to blot off as much water as you can.  A little damp is fine, soaking wet will be a problem when you add them to the bacon grease.

Put the vegetable oil and bacon strips into a large, deep cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat until the bacon is very crispy and the fat has rendered out.  Do not be tempted to raise the heat or the grease will get too hot and scorch the greens.  When the bacon is crispy, remove it to paper towels to drain.  Drop the garlic clove and the red pepper flakes into the pan and cook for just until the garlic starts to brown and is fragrant, about 20 seconds.  Remove the garlic clove.

Carefully add the collards to the pan, standing back because the moisture on the greens will spit.  Stir the collards to coat in the bacon fat and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes until the greens are wilted.  Add the sugar, baking soda and salt and stir well.  Chop the bacon into rough pieces, add them to the greens and stir. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook the greens for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are tender.  Watch carefully so they do not burn.  The greens will be dark and soft, with a few crispy edges here and there.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little pepper vinegar if you’d like.

Serves 4 as an accompaniment 

Black-Eyed Pea and Cornbread Skillet

No self-respecting Southerner, I boldly say, would let New Year’s Day pass without at least one bite of black- eyed peas. They bring luck and good fortune for the New Year, and everyone can use a little bit of that. Hoppin’ John is traditional in many quarters, but peas slowly cooked with a piece of pork are the norm for many. I like to vary my black-eyed pea intake, from my classic recipe to a big bowl of Good Luck Gumbo. But no matter how you eat them, cornbread is the traditional accompaniment to black-eyes. So here’s a recipe that kills two birds with one stone, and is tasty to boot.

This recipe is very simple, though it has a couple of steps. It’s easily done while watching the football game, which I understand is a popular New Year’s Day activity, or while resting on the sofa after some late-night revelry. Season this to your own tastes, lots of spicy Creole seasoning or just a touch, tomatoes with green chile or without. I find country ham “biscuit slices” readily at most markets in vacuum packages, but whole slices are just fine. Chopped “seasoning pieces” are great for seasoning, but don’t make great eating, so avoid them. For some prosperity to go with your New Year luck, serve these with greens, like Foldin’ Money Cabbage.

Black-eyed Pea and Cornbread Skillet

For the Black-eyed Peas

4 ounces center cut country ham biscuit slices

Half of a small yellow onion

2 garlic cloves

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)

12 ounces frozen black-eyed peas

3 green onions, white and light green part only, finely chopped

2 Tablespoons butter

1 Tablespoon flour

1 (14.5-ounce can) diced tomatoes with green chile (or plain diced tomatoes), drained

Salt to taste

For the Cornbread:

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups buttermilk

1 egg

2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

For the Black-eyed Peas:

Cut the country ham into small cubes and put it in a saucepan with the halved onion, garlic and bay leaves. Pour over 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, skim off any scum that rises, lower the heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and ½ teaspoon of the creole seasoning. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the peas are tender.

Drain the peas, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the onion, garlic and bay leaves. Rinse out the bean pot and return it to the heat. Melt the butter in the pot, then add the chopped green onions and cook until soft and translucent, but do not brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until smooth and pale. Stir in 1 cup of the cooking liquid and cook until the sauce is thickened and reduced slightly, about 8 minutes. Season with the remaining ½ teaspoon Creole seasoning (or to taste). When the sauce has thickened, add the peas and ham and stir to coat. Stir in the drained tomatoes and cook until the sauce has reduced a bit more and just coats the peas, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.

Brush a 10-inch cast iron skillet with oil. Scrape the cooked peas into the skillet and smooth the top. Set aside while you make the cornbread.

For the Cornbread:

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Stir the cornmeal, baking soda and salt together in a bowl using a fork. In a large measuring jug, measure the buttermilk, then add the egg andmelted butter and beat until combined. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Spread the cornbread batter over the top of the peas in the skillet. Carefully transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cornbread is puffed, golden and set.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Good Luck Gumbo (Black-eyed Pea and Collard Gumbo over Rice)

I am not an overly suspicious person. Sure, I have my little quirks, but I don’t worry about black cats, walking under ladders, throwing spilled salt over my left shoulder. But there are a few traditions that I adhere to because, well, it can’t hurt. Particularly if that tradition involves delicious food. So on New Year’s Day, I always eat black-eyed peas and greens. For luck and prosperity. Sometimes I eat them separately, but this gumbo includes all the ingredients for a good year. The traditional ingredients of good-luck hoppin’ john (rice and black-eyed peas), which is another New Year tradition in the South, plus greens for prosperity. Here’s a little more information on Southern luck traditions.

This gumbo can be made the day before and reheated, which is a boon if you have been out all night celebrating. Just reheat, cook some rice and add the collards. I highly recommend using smoked ham hock stock. It really gives the gumbo a smoky, earthy, rich flavor. Making it in the slow cooker is a breeze, and you can do it ahead of time. If you can’t manage, look for ham stock at some grocery stores, or use the combo of chicken and beef.

Good Luck Gumbo

1 pound smoked sausage, such as kielbasa

2 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 onion

1 green pepper

4 stalks celery

1 Tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon creole seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)

6 cups ham hock stock*, or 4 cups chicken stock and 2 cups beef stock

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 pound black-eyed peas, fresh or frozen and thawed

1 ½ cups long grain white rice

3 ½ cups water

Collard leaves

Cut the smoked sausage into bite-size cubes. Heat the oil in a 5 quart Dutch oven, add the sausage and cook over medium high heat until the sausage begins to brown. Finely chop the onion, seeded bell pepper and celery. I do this in a small food processor, one vegetable at a time, pulsing to chop the vegetable finely. Add the “trinity” vegetables to the pot and stir. Cover the pot and cook for five minutes to soften the vegetables, then remove the cover, stir well and cook until everything is nice and soft and any liquid has evaporated. Stir in the flour and cook a further minute, then stir in the creole seasoning. Pour in the stock and the canned tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes uncovered, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and continue cooking for another half an hour. The gumbo should reduce and thicken slightly. The gumbo can be made up to this point, cooled and refrigerated, covered, overnight.

When ready to serve, cook the rice. Stir the rice into the water in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil and boil until almost all the water is absorbed and little air bubbles form in the rice, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and tightly cover the pan.

Cut the collard leaves in half and cut out the stems. Stack the leaf halves, three at a time, on top of each other and roll up like a cigar. Cut the leaves into thin ribbons. You can further chop the collard ribbons if you’d like.

Heat the gumbo to a low boil over medium high heat. It will thicken as it sits, but loosen up when heated. But add a little water if you need to get things moving. Add the collards, stir, and cover the pot. Cook until the collards are tender and wilted, about 5 minutes. Serve over cooked rice. If you have saved some ham hock meat from making the stock, dice that and stir it into the gumbo as well. And if you’d like, sprinkle some hot sauce over the gumbo.

*Smoked Ham Hock Stock

Hock Stock is an amazing cooking medium for field peas, beans and greens, as well as a great base for soup or gumbo. I always look for a naturally smoked hock (not one that has no artificial smoke flavoring added). I get these from farmers market vendors when I can, and make a batch of stock to freeze.  I can then have to the long, slow cooked taste in quick versions of my favorite southern dishes.

1 large smoked ham hock, cut into three pieces

1 onion

2 carrots

2 celery stalks

1 Tablespoon black pepper corns

3 bay leaves

Place all the ingredients in the crock of a large slow cooker. Add 10 – 12 cups of water to fill the crock. Cook on the low setting for 10 – 12 hours. Strain the solids from the stock and refrigerate for several hours. When the stock is cold, skim any solidified fat from the top and discard. Strain the stock through cheesecloth to remove any last bits of debris.

If you’d like, pull the meat from the ham hock pieces and dice. It is a great addition to any soup or beans you are cooking with the stock.

The stock will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or can be frozen for up to a year. The same goes for the hock meat, in a separate container from the stock.

Makes 6 – 8 cups

Green and Gold Collards

Greens on New Year’s Day are an important tradition here in the South. It’s a wish for prosperity in the new year, you see, greens representing the foldin’ money you hope to have in your pocket. Collards are a traditional green and here you can add a little wish for some jangly change in your pocket too with the golden coin-like dumplings. Serve them with some black-eyed peas, and you are in for a year full of good luck.

I know many people who turn their nose up at collards, and I agree that a flavorless collard is not worth the time, so you need to make a nice smoky, porky stock to cook them in, so the greens are well flavored, and the potlikker is mighty tasty too. So here’s a little primer on cooking collard greens. Fresh whole collards are readily available here in the winter. I buy mine at the special Winter Farmers Market, though the good produce stores have them too. A bunch is usually a little bit over a pound. Prepping collards takes a little love, but then doesn’t all good food? I fold my collard leaves in half, cut out the stem from the middle and discard it, the roll up stacks of leaves and cut them into strips, about an inch wide. I drop all these in a big colander and submerge the colander in a sink of cold water. Swirl the greens around, pick up the colander and let the water drain out, then drain the sink and repeat the process three or four times. Shake most of the water off the collards, then they are ready for the pot. Ok, I’ll concede here. Nowadays you can find washed and chopped collards in the bagged salad department at the grocery. I don’t live in your house, so I am not going to know. Though I’d give these a rinse too. If you really can’t find either of these options, look for frozen collards and thaw them according to the package.

Smoked ham hocks are a natural with greens, producing the right smoky pork flavor. You’ll find ham hocks in the smoked meat section of the grocery (usually near the sausage, with the salt pork etc.). Or ask the butcher. I am fortunate to have some really good local farmers that provide naturally smoked ham hocks, which are ideal. Read the labels, some “smoked” hocks really just have smoke flavoring added and these are not very good, as they produce a sort of metallic taste. If you can’t find real smoked ham hocks, use real smoked bacon or hocks that have not been smoked. I love field peas and beans cooked in smoked pork stock, so when I get my hands on some good smoked hocks or bones from smoked ham, I make a big batch of stock (just cooking the meat and water) in a slow cooker and freeze for use whenever I want that great Southern flavor.

So if any of this seems like a lot of work on New Year’s Day, never fear. You can make the pork stock a day ahead (or months, as I said above). Cool and refrigerate the stock with the hocks still in it, then reheat, remove the hocks and proceed. You can prep the collards a day ahead too. Trim, cut and wash them, shake out the water and put them in a plastic bag with the top loosely tied in the crisper drawer.

Corn bread is the traditional accompaniment to greens, but I also like to make a nice golden dumpling to simmer in the luscious potlikker. The dumplings just soak up that flavor.

Green and Gold Collards

For the Collards:

2 nice big hunks of smoked pork hock (about a pound)

8 cups water

1 onion, diced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Lots of fresh ground black pepper

1 bunch of collard greens (a little over a pound), cleaned and cut (see above)

2 Tablespoons cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon sugar

For the Dumplings:

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup buttermilk

2 Tablespoons shortening or lard, melted

Pepper Vinegar, for serving

For the Collards:

Drizzle a tiny bit of oil in the bottom of a 7- quart Dutch oven and heat over high. Add the ham hocks and brown the sides as best you can. Hocks are a funny shape, so this is not a perfect science. When you’ve got some nice brown, pour in the water and scrape up and any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the diced onion, red pepper flakes and a really nice grinding of black pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for about two hours, until the meat is falling off the bones of the ham hocks. Remove the hocks to a plate.

Turn the heat up under the hock stock, and when it begins to boil, add the greens by big handfuls, stirring each addition until the greens turn bright green before adding the next handful. When all the greens are added, bring the pot to the boil. When the stock is bubbling and the collards are shakin’ in the pot, reduce the heat, cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes.

Mix the vinegar and sugar together, and after the greens have cooked for 30 minutes, stir it into the greens and cover the pot. Continue cooking for about another 15 minutes, but if your collards are not going nice and soft and dark green yet, add 10 more minutes or so until they do. Make the dumplings at the end of that cooking time.

For the Dumplings:

Sift the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the buttermilk and melted shortening and stir just until everything is combined and moistened.

Take the top off the collard pot and bring the stock back up to a boil. Drop heaping tablespoons of the dumpling batter into the pot, cover and cook another 15- 20 minutes, until the dumplings are cooked through.

While the dumplings are cooking, pull the meat off the ham hock bones and shred it with a fork, removing any skin. Stir into the collards right before serving. Add a little salt if you want, though that hock does a lot.

When ready to serve, scoop the collards and dumplings into big, deep bowls and spoon over the potlikker. Pass a bottle of pepper vinegar or some hot sauce.

Serves 6

Try this Pink-Eyed Pea Pepper Pot recipe with black-eyed peas if you want a non-pork accompainment to these collards.