I hope everyone’s New Year was as restful and relaxing as Bindi’s New Year.
Granted, she doesn’t have many things to worry over, except the occasional rain and snowfall, and any outside temperature below 70F (21C). But when any of those weather-related catastrophes happen to her, she can usually worm her way into the cozy house to her bed by the fireplace with a series of pathetic looks and timid whines. That is, if she’s not cuddling on a willing lap, getting her belly scratched.
In honor of the new year, I’ve followed tradition and cooked up a hearty batch of black-eyed peas, and to christen my fancy-schmancy new cast iron skillet Christmas gift (thank you, Auntie Pam!), I whipped up some melt-in-your-mouth skillet cornbread, complete with coriander, cayenne pepper and seasoned with what else? — bacon grease!
Oh, what I’ve been missing all these years without a cast iron skillet! I’ve been baking cornbread in bread pans and casserole dishes all these years. What was I thinking?! The bacon grease-seasoned skillet added so much flavor by caramelizing the edges of the cornbread to a crispy, sweet finish.
Mamma mia! My life is changed.
Here in America, it’s a tradition in the South to eat black eyed peas for luck and prosperity in the new year. Apparently, serving cornbread with them represents gold, so this should be my year, as I made the cornbread inspired purely by gluttony.
This black eyed pea soup can be made vegetarian by simply cooking the peas with the stock vegetables– carrots, celery and onion. I added a couple marrow bones to be sure I didn’t miss out on the lovely fats, collagen, amino acids and minerals which marrow bones impart. If you choose to forego the bones, please add 1 tablespoon olive oil to your soup while it cooks.
Ingredients for Soup
1 package dried black eyed peas (1 pound)
2 beef marrow bones
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
A handful of fresh, chopped parsley
Ingredients for Cornbread
1 1/2 cup white flour
1 1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 T peanut or olive oil
2 cups buttermilk
2-3 tablespoons bacon grease or softened coconut oil for seasoning skillet
It’s a rare recipe in which I’ll use white flour, but this cornbread is an exception I’m occasionally willing to make. Whole wheat flour yields a bread too crumbly for my taste, but one could probably use equal parts whole wheat and white flours for an acceptable result. Please let me know what your results are like if you use other, healthier flours.
Rinse the peas in cold water, then pour into a stock pot and fill with water to your desired level. Keep in mind some of the water will evaporate during cooking, so add more than you think you’ll need. Set over a high heat and bring to a rolling boil, but refrain from adding salt until the beans are soft. Salt has a strange effect on dried legumes, though black-eyed peas are much easier to soften than other beans.
Add the marrow bones, the cooking holy trinity (onion, carrot and celery) and parsley, and simmer over a medium low heat until the peas are soft, or longer, if you’re not quite ready to eat. This recipe is wonderfully flexible.
When you are ready to claim your new years’ luck, season the soup with the juice of half a lemon — more or less — to your taste, as always, then with salt and pepper. Remember, adding delicious acids like lemon to soups will enhance all of the other flavors, thereby cutting down the need for salt. I love salt, but I find that acids boost flavor in a wonderful way that salt just can’t touch.
While your soup is cooking, get ready for some crumbly deliciousness. Slather the skillet with bacon grease or coconut oil and set aside. While you all know I love bacon grease, I really decided to use it because of all the historical recipes that call for skillets seasoned with bacon grease, especially when cooking breads like cornbread or biscuits. I’ve spent a small amount of time in Charleston, SC, so these southern tips echo in my ears… and oh, what a difference they make.
Whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the wet. Pour the batter into the skillet and slide into a piping hot oven (400F, 200C), then sit with your nose pressed against the glass watching the magic happen (just kidding).
My cornbread was done after 35 minutes, but this can vary slightly if you like yours done lighter or darker.
Serve the soup with thickly buttered cornbread. Now you can sit back and relax, knowing that you’ve done all you can do to ensure a prosperous new year filled with gold. (Please let me know if this actually works for you.)