A long time ago, in the infancy of Roamin’ Gnomials — or more precisely, before this blog was even called Roamin’ Gnomials — I authored a post extolling the virtue of black-eyed peas. Now that post was more about the social aspects of pea-picking than about the food itself, but it did open the eyes of a lot of people who would have otherwise remained ignorant about this noble legume.
I’ll admit it, I used to take black-eyed peas for granted. Being raised in Texas, eating black-eyed peas was just what we did on those days when we weren’t eating barbecue or enchiladas. And truth be told, I seldom prepared them when I lived in Texas, where I was more of an eater than a cooker.
All that changed when I moved to New Jersey, which, to put it nicely, was a Black-eyed Pea Wasteland until I came along. Suddenly, I found myself in a place where nobody was cooking black-eyed peas and I had to start fending for myself.
Nowadays, however, word’s getting around, and New Jersey people from one end of this state to the other (which really ain’t that big when you compare it to the distance between Brownsville and Amarillo), show up at my door whenever I’m cooking up a big ol’ mess of peas, and they’re all saying the same thing: “Give us the recipe!”
So okay, whether you live in Texas, New Jersey, or someplace in between, here it is:
Roamin’ Gnomials-Style Black-eyed Peas
1 bag (16oz) dried black-eyed peas
1 large yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans Rotel brand diced tomatoes with green chile
2 cups beef broth
1/2 pound hickory-smoked bacon, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
Sort through the black-eyed peas, removing any small clumps of dirt or pebbles that might be hiding inside. Put them in a large pot, cover them with an inch or two of water and bring to a boil. Boil the peas for about 20 minutes, then drain completely in a colander.
Rinse out the pot, then cook the diced bacon. Remove the cooked bacon from the pot and drain all but a teaspoon or so of the bacon fat. Sauté the onion and garlic in the bacon fat until transparent.
Add the parboiled black-eyed peas and drained bacon back into the pot, along with all the rest of the ingredients, and enough water to completely cover the peas by an inch or so. If you’re using beef bullion or canned broth, you might want to cut back on the salt somewhat.
Bring the peas back to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Don’t let it boil dry; add more water if necessary! Peas should be just a little firm. In other words, don’t cook them to mush!
Black-eyed peas can be eaten by themselves or over rice. If eaten with rice, the dish would be called “Hoppin’ John” in some parts of the country, but in my house, we just call it good eatin!
Notes: Hundreds of people have asked me why I change the boiling water. I’ve found that doing this improves the color of the finished product and removes the “dusty” taste that some people associate with cooking dried legumes. Other people have asked me about Rotel products. Let me tell you, Rotel is a little can of Texas, and the salvation of many a Texan forced to live in other parts of the country. It’s worth searching for (it’s on the “international foods” aisle in my grocery store, heh heh), but if you simply can’t find it, substitute a regular can of diced tomatoes, along with 2-3 diced fresh jalapeño peppers. A few sad people have asked whether they can leave out the bacon. I really can’t imagine why anybody would want to do that, but yes, you can make this an entirely vegetarian meal by leaving out the bacon and substituting vegetable broth for beef broth, but I would no longer endorse it as an Official Roamin’ Gnomials Recipe! Still, you might like it!
Preaching: I’m all for hunting bargains, but to my way of thinking, there are two things in life where I buy off the top shelf: bacon and beer. Life’s too short to put up with cheap bacon or cheap beer, so for this recipe, buy good hickory-smoked bacon (please, please, please don’t use maple bacon in your black-eyed peas or you’ll end up with something that tastes like pancakes), and while you’re eating your peas, they’ll pair nicely with a good beer like Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale.