Friday, April 10, 2009

Southern Black-Eyed Peas

It is a sad fact that there is less and less soul food to be found in Harlem. I mean - in Harlem restaurants, at any rate. The old restaurants have mostly gone out of business, many of them just over the last year. Bill and I found this out the hard way, when I was craving biscuits one Sunday morning last fall, and we pounded the pavement for an hour, only to find that virtually all of our old haunts had closed. (Thank god for Margie's Red Rose Diner. I'll cry my eyes out when those screen doors close for good.)

The following week an article about the death of soul food in Harlem appeared in the NY times, with this beautiful photo by Chester Higgens, Jr.

M&G diner is/was just a few blocks from us, and Bill used to refer to it as his "office." The diner managed to stay open for 40 years, but is now permanently closed, and I guess we'll be turning out our own biscuits and salmon cakes and black-eyed peas from now on.

2 quarts water
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked for at least 6 hours ahead of time, unless you are using a pressure cooker
1 large ham hock
3 slices uncooked bacon, diced
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons creole seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Cover and boil gently until peas are tender, stirring occasionally. This takes about 1 hour on the stove. I've also done it in the pressure cooker in much less time - you just have to be really careful not to overcook the peas which can happen easily. If using a pressure cooker, use a little less water and add a little oil so the beans won't foam up and clog the valve.

Remove the ham hock to a cutting board. While the hock is cooling, partially mash the peas to thicken the liquid. Continue to simmer the peas, uncovered, to reduce the liquid by half for a thick but still soupy consistency. Taste for seasoning AFTER the liquid has reduced down to the finished consistency.

While peas are simmering, cut any edible meat off the cooled ham hock, discarding everything else. Return the chopped meat to the peas.

Serve in bowls with biscuits for dipping.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the photo by C. Higgins, Jr. It's right up there with Walker Evans and Robert Frank. I had not known his work previously.
    I will place it my blog.

    \W. B. Moore
    Charlotte, NC