You can’t have a quintessential southern meal without black-eyed peas. This is just one of those times where I’m going to state an opinion like it’s a fact because I refuse to believe there is any other way things could be. My dad taught me to do this, so it’s not my fault. Black-eyed peas were one of my favorite foods growing up and continue to be one of my favorite comfort foods.  If you’ve only had canned b-e peas, let me tell you they are nothing compared to the ones made from scratch (but I guess that’s always true, now isn’t it…?).  

Another great thing about making these peas is that all the work comes up front. Most of the time the peas are cooking they are just simmering and you can tend to cooking other dishes. Add to this the fact that the peas can sit for a while before they are served and you have the recipe for a perfect side dish. The recipe I used comes from a cookbook I found on sale at a used bookstore that has been surprisingly handy.  Recipes are organized into menus for entertaining during different seasons or holidays.  This recipe comes from the “Sunday Soul” menu, which also has recipes for fried chicken, skillet cornbread, and mississippi mud pie.

The original recipe in the cookbook is for black-eyed peas and braised cabbage, but I left the cabbage steps out (steps 2 and 3 below). I included the whole recipe below just in case folks would like to try it out.  If you are a meat-eater, the bacon in the recipe is essential. If you are vegetarian I feel sorry for you right now, but you could make this without bacon and just add some oil to the skillet before cooking the onions. I’ve never made this without bacon, but the onions, cider vinegar, and red pepper flakes add enough flavor that I bet it would still be delicious!

Black-Eyed Peas and Braised Cabbage
adapted slightly from California Bistro: Menus for Entertaining

Serves 4.

1/4 pound sliced bacon, cut into 1/4-inch julienne
1 small onion, peeled and minced
1 stalk celery, minced, with some leaves
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 pinches hot red pepper flakes
1 cup (about 7 ounces) dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
2 tsp cider vinegar
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
Approximately 1 cup water
1 head green cabbage, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch shreds
1 tsp sugar

1. In a large saucepan, fry half the bacon over medium heat until it begins to brown; add onion and celery and continue to cook for a few more minutes, until wilted. Add half the garlic, then a pinch of hot red pepper, the black-eyed peas, and the vinegar. Saute for a moment longer, then add 2 cups of the chicken broth and the salt. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Add 1 cup water and simmer for another 40 minutes, or until peas are tender, adding more water as necessary, stirring occasionally. When done, season with salt to taste and set aside. There should be very little liquid in the pan, but the peas should not be dry.

2. Just before serving or after peas are cooked, prepare cabbage by rendering remaining bacon in a large pot. When brown and crispy, add a pinch of red pepper flakes and remaining garlic. Cook for a moment, then add cabbage, sugar, and remaining cup chicken browth. Cover and steam the cabbage until tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season with salt.

3. Add the peas to the cabbage and toss well. Arrange in a large bowl and serve hot.