Having grown up in the South, I understand bacon’s affect on a big pot of vegetables. It softens and seasons everything it touches with its salty, smoky flavor.
But not all of us want to or can eat bacon with our vegetables. Yet we still deserve for our turnip greens or black eyed-peas to be just as rich and melt-in-your-mouth as those cooked with fat for 2 hours.
This recipe produces tender, mouth-watering black-eyed peas that fill your home with delicious smells as they simmer, then coat your cornbread with a perfect pea gravy every bit as satisfying as the bacon-laced version you may have grown up with.
Slow-Simmered Black-Eyed Peas
- Olive oil
- 1 large shallot, diced
- 5 cloves garlic, diced
- 1-2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- Leaves from 1 bunch thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 bag pre-soaked black-eyed peas (I soaked mine for 2 hours)
- 1 quart water (or more, if the peas absorb too much)
- 2 vegetable bullion cubes
- 2 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 small carrot, chopped
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- Salt & pepper
- Heat a little olive oil in an enameled cast iron pot on medium-low. Add the shallot to the hot oil, season with salt, and cook until translucent.
- Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme and bay leaves and cook about 1 minute.
- Add the peas, water, bullion, tomatoes, carrot, tomato paste, salt and pepper and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to just above low, cover with a heavy lid and simmer for several hours, stirring occasionally.
- During the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, check the water level in the peas. If the peas seem too soupy, you may want to remove the lid so more water evaporates. Likewise, you may need to add water if the mixture is too thick. Remember that when the peas cool, they will thicken considerably. They should be like stew.
Laurene is a rare person; one of the sweetest women you’ll ever meet. She lived through the Great Depression in rural Mississippi. At 98 years old, she still plants and harvests a garden and apparently makes the best cornbread. Period.
True southern cornbread is not complicated, unlike so many of the recipes you see these days, calling for sugar and oil and all sorts of unnecessary ingredients. There are a few things to remember:
- Always use Sunflower white cornmeal mix. She’s been making cornbread longer than any of us, and she says it’s the best.
- Bake your cornbread in a cast iron skillet. Actually, Laurene didn’t say this, because she would never guess anyone (ahem, me) could be so uninformed as to attempt cornbread in an aluminum pan.
- Preheat your skillet with a little butter in it to coat the edges. Then pour the batter into the hot skillet and pop it right in the oven. This is what gives it that amazing crispy crust!
Laurene’s Cornbread Recipe
- 1 egg
- 2 cups cornmeal mix
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- Pat of salted butter
- Preheat the oven and a six-inch cast iron skillet to 400 degrees F.
- Whisk the egg, cornmeal, and milk in a bowl until combined.
- Add a pat of butter to the skillet to coat the bottom and sides (for a crisp crust), as well as a sprinkle of cornmeal (for easy removal, later).
- Pour in the batter.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.