Bring Good Luck To The New Year With Black Eyed Peas
I just learned from three different people that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is a southern tradition to bring good luck and prosperity. According to Wikipedia,
“The traditional meal also features collard, turnip or mustard greens and ham. The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion.”
I’ve also read in my newly acquired Christmas gift subscription of La Cucina Italiana cooking magazine about a similar tradition in Italy. Here they eat lentils with cotechino (a pork sausage made with ground pork, pork rinds, fatback and spices) to bring in the New Year for prosperity. The lentils represent upcoming wealth because they are coin shaped and the pig, “an animal that eats while moving forward, symbolizes good luck in the future.”
I happen to find a great looking recipe for Black-Eyed Pea Stew with Sausage in my latest issue of Food & Wine that I adapted for my family. It is easy to make and tastes great for any of you who would like some good fortune in 2010.
The biggest change I made was to add sweet sausage to the recipe that called for hot sausage because I knew my wife and kids wouldn’t eat the hot stuff. In fact, if I make it again, I might just stick with the sweet sausage even though I love spicy food and it’s easy to differentiate the hot and sweet by color.
Of course I’ve heard of black-eyed peas and I’m sure I’ve eaten them when traveling down south but I can’t remember ever cooking with them. They have their signature black spot on a pale, cream-colored outer layer. Originally from India, they came to the United States by way of the West Indies back in the 1600’s.
What I really like about cooking with black-eyed peas is you don’t have to soak them overnight like many other beans I often cook with. This makes it easy to make a soup or a stew like this at a moments notice and not have to resort to canned beans.
Another dish prepared in the South on New Years day is Hoppin’ John, a version of a classic dish of rice and beans served in the Caribbean. It includes black-eyed peas, rice, onion and bacon or fatback. Like the lentil, the black-eyed peas is suppose to symbolize coins. Again according to Wikipedia,
“On the day after New Year’s Day, leftover “Hoppin’ John” is called “Skippin’ Jenny,” and further demonstrates one’s frugality, bringing a hope for a even better chance of prosperity in the New Year.”
Black-Eyed Pea Stew With Sausage Recipe
- 3 tablespoons of Canola oil
- 2½ pounds combined of hot and/or sweet Italian sausage"¨
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1 red bell pepper seeded, sliced and diced
- ½ fennel bulb diced"¨
- 3 garlic cloves minced fine
- One 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes drained
- 2 cups of dried black-eyed peas
- 4 cups of chicken stock homemade is great but commercial is good too
- 3 cups of filtered water salt and pepper to taste
- 1 small bunch of cilantro
- Start by getting all your ingredients ready (mise en place). This is the ways the pros do it and it makes the entire job much easier. This means chopping and dicing your vegetables, rinsing the black-eyed peas and making sure there are no little stones in them.
- Heat up a large soup pot or one of those nice cast iron casserole pots if you have one on medium high heat. Add the oil and wait until it gets hot enough to shimmer but not smoke. Add the sausages and cook until they are brown on the outside and cooked through on the inside. This should take about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the sausages from the pot and transfer to a large plate or bowl.
- Next you want to brown the onion, bell pepper, fennel and garlic in the same pot. There should be enough oil and fat from the sausage to cook them nicely. Be sure to move the vegetables around so they don't burn. This should take 5 to 8 minutes depending on your stove top and pot.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and let them cook down for about 5 minutes. Now you add the washed black-eyed peas, chicken stock and water. Bring this to a boil, cover partially and reduce heat and simmer until the black-eyed peas begin to get tender. This can take 1¼ hours to 1½ hours.
- Slice the reserved sausage on the diagonal into ½ inch slices and add them to the pot. Be sure to add the accumulated juices from the sausages you find on the plate. It adds lots of additional flavor.
- Taste the stew and add the salt and pepper to taste. Chop and add about ¼ cup of the fresh cilantro to the pot and simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Stew is ready.
- I served this stew in bowls but first added a slice of Italian bread to the bottom of the bowl. The kids like having bread in the bowl and everyone enjoyed the stew. Be sure to garnish the top with some of the leftover cilantro leaves. I've been eating this stew for lunch for the past couple of days and it seems to get better and better.
- Happy New Year and May the New Year Bring You Prosperity.