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This Old Chef: Blog & Recipes

New Year's Day! (Greens, Black-eyed Peas, Sausage and Corn Bread)

Posted on January 3, 2015 with 0 comments

Living with a Southerner for almost 37 years, I have come to accept that this particular meal will be required of me every January 1st...

And I've come to like it!

1)  Regardless of package instructions... black-eyed peas do not need to be soaked.  Put them in a pan with a minced onion, a smoked ham hock, some minced garlic, a little or a lot of minced peppers (I use habañeros, but that's up to you).  You can also use red pepper flakes or even Tabasco, and water, salt and lots of black pepper.  Simmer until tender but not mushy.

2)  Whenever I have any greens that are starting to go, I cook them down and freeze them.  That way, I always have a supply.  This year's mix included kale, arugula, and some beet greens.  (For you purists, I'm sorry but there were no collards in the mix!)  I put the frozen greens in a pan with onions, garlic, a ham hock and a tiny bit of water.  These can then cook for as short or long a period as you like.  Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with either a splash of good vinegar, or vinegar on the side.

3)  This year's pork contribution was the homemade sausage described in yesterday's post.  Just amazing.  Even more flavorful after a day's rest.

4)  And the cornbread...  Ah, the cornbread!  For years I have struggled to get the baking soda/baking powder ratio right.  See, I was raised in Michigan and, to me, cornbread was Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix.  But that just won't do when you marry into the South.

My mother-in-law, Harriet Browder Hensley, made a great cornbread, but she used self-rising cornmeal.  Now, I have two problems with that:  one, if you don't make cornbread daily, the self-rising part... doesn't!  And two, I live in New York, not exactly the epicenter of artisan self-rising cornmeal.

Now you'd think I could easily find a recipe, right?  Ah, no, Dear Readers!  Because the Hensley clan has another requirement regarding their cornbread:  No. Eggs.  They look down their noses, and say, "Eggs just make it... cakey."  So I've tried for ages, tweaking Harriet's recipe, buying a bag of the self-rising stuff whenever I do a play in NC, and I've had some "almost/real close/not quite" successes...

And then, in the most unlikely place imaginable - the 1957 two-volume Gourmet cookbook - I found a recipe that had no eggs!!!  So that's what I made, and Praise Be!  It was her cornbread!  So...

Combine: 

2 C white cornmeal

1 heaping t kosher salt

1/2 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

1 t fresh ground black pepper

2 T lard  (trust me)

Mix this all together until it looks like damp sand.

Add:

1 1/4 C buttermilk, or soured regular milk (I had a T or 2 of sour cream, so I added that to whole milk and let it sit out in the kitchen).  And mix.

Scrape the batter into a well-buttered, well-seasoned cast iron pan.  (The one I have is used exclusively for corn bread.  It measures eight inches across the top and six inches across the bottom, and I never remember whether it's called a 6" or an 8" pan...)

Bake it in a preheated 450 oven for 25-30 minutes. Flip it out... and flip OUT!!!

I like my slice split and buttered... Mmmmmmm...

So all in all, a pretty perfect traditional meal, one that even my mother-in-law would have approved of.  Now all I'm waiting for is the luck, the greenbacks, and the silver to come roaring in.

2015...  Here we come!