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
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.