Black Eyed Peas, Cornbread and Cast Iron

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Do you have those heirloom pieces in your kitchen? You know the ones I’m talking about.  We feel differently when we cook with them, something magical happens.  Genealogy and memories course through the physical properties and it reverberates with the living essence of those who held them before.  If we talk to our foodie friends about our favorite pieces, inevitably the conversations light up when it comes to our heirloom cast iron. We become animated, we talk and talk about the meals, who cooked them and how perfectly this pan made it work.

I am blessed that I have a few such favored pieces. When I bring down the enormous cast iron fry pan,  it takes both hands just to lift it, it is so heavy! Glossy, black and perfectly seasoned from decades of use.  Just looking at it, I can see my Dad cooking up fried chicken as only he could. I have yet to master his touch.

This New Year’s I used the old Detroit gem pan we received from my husband’s mother.  Not only celebrating the first day of the year,  but also his father”s birthday and a little southern tradition thrown in. Nothing better to make the crust of cornbread just right, and nothing better than connecting with those no longer with us in this life.

cornbread gems
Detroit Gem Pan  and Alber’s Cornbread Recipe – less sugar.

These imperfect pieces of cookware, time worn and loved keep our familial connections alive in our hearts and in our kitchen.

A California Girl’s Take on New Year’s Black Eyed Peas
Blackeyed peas & cornbread
Black eyed peas inaugural dish for my new heirloom, 3.5 qt blue enameled dutch oven!

Click if you would like to read the recipe.

California Girl Black Eyed Peas
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooktime: ~1.5 hours

Olive Oil
Hambone w/meat (left over from spiral bone in ham)
2  cups ham meat, diced
½ sweet yellow onion, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 cups low salt chicken broth
1 cup water
1 can stewed tomatos with onion and peppers
1 tsp Mrs. Dash Spicy Blend
1 lb bag frozen blackeyed peas
3 sprigs fresh thyme
½ tsp fresh oregano
2 tsp fresh flat parsley leaves
¼ tsp liquid smoke
Crystal Lousianna Hot Sauce
kosher salt
coarse ground black pepper

Dice vegetables
Set out bag of blackeyed peas to thaw.

Heat 3.5 quart dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat
Add 1.5 tablespoons olive oil and saute onion, pepper, celery, carrot for about 5-7 minutes to soften. Keep heat even, do not brown, onions should be translucent, carrots slightly soft.
Pour in stewed tomatos, chicken broth and Mrs. Dash Spicy Blend, bring to a boil. Add hambone adding more water as needed to just cover. Bring back up to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, cover with potlid and cook about an hour for flavors to meld.
Remove hambone, cut off meat, dice to small ¼” –  1/2” pieces and return meat to pot.
Add thawed blackeyed peas, increase heat to low boil and cook for at least 10 minutes or desired pea “softness” (I like mine with a bit of tooth and not mushy.) Reduce heat to low and add chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme leaves, oregano) liquid smoke and a few dashes of Crystal Lousianna Hot Sauce to suit. I used 3 good shakes. Taste before adding kosher salt and about ½ tsp of coarse black pepper. Cook another 3-5 minutes and serve.

Cook’s Tips
Adding the fresh herbs and other spices at the end result in a beautiful bright finish to the light broth and beans. Hams vary in how salty they are, so it is important to taste at the end before adding more salt to the beans, a pinch may be all you need.

Recipe: California Girl Blackyed Peas Copyright 2011

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