Saturday, December 31, 2011

Black-eyed peas

Enough of the history on w/the food!

1 pound dried black-eyed peas
(fresh or canned black-eyed peas can be substituted)
6 ounces pork shoulder diced into 1/2-inch cubes
4 strips thick bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 medium onion, small diced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons oil 
2 cups water
3 bay leaves
Hot-pepper vinegar, as desired
If using dried black-eyed peas, put in a large pot and cover with about 4 inches of water. Soak the peas overnight, then drain the water and rinse. You can "quick-soak" the peas by bringing them to a boil. (2 minutes) After this, remove from heat, cover the pot and soak the peas (1 hour) Then, dain and rinse the peas. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (shimmering) add pork. Sear until pork is browned on all sides (4 to 5 minutes) Add the bacon, onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, until the onion and garlic are lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the salt, black pepper, cayenne and garlic powder; saute until the entire mixture is coated with the spices (about 2 minutes) Pour in the stock and water and drop in the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.

When the pork begins to fall apart, add the prepared peas to the pot and simmer until the peas are very soft, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (If you want them creamy as when you cook red beans you can do either of two things. You can take the spoon you're cooking w/mashing them aside the pot. Or you can take out a small portion (about 1 cup or so) & puree them then back to the pot)

New Years meal

Julius Caesar chose the Julian calendar in 46 BC, as a result, January 1 became the day for Western world celebrations of the New Year. Due to our French heritage there’s only one thing to eat black-eyed peas (a gift from a part of Africa ruled by the French for a long time) Black-eyed peas are de rigueur in New Orleans, a place where France left a big shoe print. Whatever the truth of the story, cabbage leaves represent paper greenbacks and black-eyed peas, long considered a lucky legume because of their association with coins, particularly West Africa. Where slavers stole most of the slaves away from that part of the world and shipped them to the Antebellum South.  As far back as the time of the pharaohs of Egypt, people believed that eating black-eyed peas would bring luck on certain auspicious days.

New Year’s Day carries with it a whole truckload of fascinating history. Depending on whom you ask, the foods represent various types of blessings and success. Eating food for strength, health, and wealth an age old phenomenon. For instance, pigs are popular symbols of good luck and progress in some European countries; anything green is considered a sign of prosperity. Some sources say that Thomas Jefferson (the first real American gourmet/foodie) introduced black-eyed peas to the region around his Monticello estate, at least as a serious crop and ground cover. There is speculation that Black-eyed peas came from Africa to Virginia in the 1600s? Apparently didn’t really become a major crop until later. (after the Revolutionary War)

Now supposedly Northern troops thought the beans they saw in the field were field peas, in their minds only good for feeding livestock. The grateful Southerners “found” the beans and saved themselves from starvation. According to folklore throughout the South the first food to be eaten on New Year's Day for luck and prosperity throughout the year ahead is black-eyed peas. One must eat at least 365 black-eyed peas on New Year's Day to ensure best chance of luck every day in the year ahead.  Whatever the truth of that story maybe?

As said prior cabbage leaves represent paper greenbacks and black-eyed peas, long considered a lucky legume because of their association with coins particularly West Africa where slavers stole most of the slaves away from that part of the world then shipped them to the Antebellum South. The history of cabbage is so long and varied was an important food, and the French, Germans and English took cabbage seeds to America. Cabbage is supposed to bring financial prosperity in the coming year. A custom of some was to boil a shiny new dime (making certain it is germ free) then putting it a pot of smothered cabbage. The one who finds the dime is supposed to have more luck in that coming year. This was the lore I was told when but a little girl as to why one cooked the cabbage (for money) and the black-eyed peas (for prosperity). It’s the hope that life will change the desire for money and luck that causes a lot of New Year’s Day food preparations.

Roast Fresh Ham

Roast Fresh Ham
8-to 10-pound fresh ham
(1/2 leg of pork)
6 garlic cloves, chopped coarse
2 tbs fresh orange juice
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 tbs wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried orégano, crumbled
1 large onion, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a sharp knife score the skin and fat of the ham deeply in a diamond pattern. In a blender purée the garlic with 2 tbs orange juice, the oil, the vinegar, the salt, the pepper, and the orégano and rub the mixture all over the ham. Put the onion in the middle of a roasting pan, arrange a rack on top of it, and put the ham on the rack. Roast the ham in the oven for 4 hours, or until a meat thermometer registers 170°F., and let it stand in the pan at room temperature for 15 minutes. Transfer the ham to a carving board, pull off the cracklings (crisp pieces of skin), reserving them, and remove and discard the remaining fat. Slice the meat thin across the grain, arrange it on a platter, and keep it warm with the reserved cracklings, covered.

If you wish to make gravy here's how:
4 cups water
14 cup all-purpose flour
13 cup orange juice (fresh)
2 tbsp wine vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 leaf flat leaf parsley (fresh, garnish)
1 strip orange zest (garnish)

Transfer 2 tbs of the fat from the roasting pan to a saucepan and pour off the remaining fat from the pan juices. Add the water to the roasting pan and deglaze the pan over high heat, scraping up the brown bits. Add the flour to the fat in the saucepan, cook the roux over low heat, whisking, for 2 minutes, and strain the mixture from the roasting pan through a sieve into the roux, pressing hard on the solids. Whisk in the orange juice, the vinegar, and the sugar, simmer the gravy, whisking, for 5 minutes, and season it with salt and pepper