French ranchero black-eyed peas
Every year my mom would have each of my brothers and sisters eat at least one black-eyed pea on New Year’s Day. She said it was supposed to bring you good luck for the coming year. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s is a tradition I’m now passing along to my kids.
I’m not sure exactly where my mom picked up this tradition, but many different cultures hail this humble bean (quizically called a “pea”) as a bringer of prosperity. During Rosh Hashanah, black-eyed peas are thought to bear good fortune, the idea dating back to mentions in ancient text.
In the South, the story goes that black-eyed peas became a symbol of survival and good luck because of their Civil War connection. Union troops took everything they could from the land as they left the South, leaving behind what they thought was a somewhat inedible field green, black-eyed peas.
Today a favorite Southern dish, especially for New Year’s, is Hoppin’ John, which includes pork, rice, and of course, black-eyed peas. I like to think that the unusual appearance of black-eyed peas–with one black “eye” nestled in the middle of each one–may also be a reason it’s become associated with good fortune. Eyes equal wisdom, something like that…
We infused flavor into the mild beans by using a Mexican cooking style for frijoles rancheros, then used French seasonings. I wasn’t quite sure what to call our concoction that blended a world of cuisines into one cast iron, the best I could come up with was French Ranchero Black-Eyed Peas.
1 large shallot, diced (about 1/2 cup)
4 cups cooked, drained black-eyed peas (I used dried ones that I’d cooked in the crockpot during the day)
1/2 cup chicken broth
5 slices bacon, cut into small slivers (the kitchen scissors are perfect for this!)
Handful of parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Salt to taste
- Bring 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan.
- Cook the bacon in the olive oil until just barely beginning to crisp. Add in the shallots and the garlic and cook until the shallots become translucent and the bacon crisped.
- Add the beans to the pan all at once along with the chicken broth.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes. Stir in thyme, white pepper, and parsley. Season with salt. (If you’re feeling crazy add in a little smoked paprika and rosemary, too.)