Blogs, Recipes

Black Eyed Peas

Who knew there was so much history surrounding food!

I definitely believe in superstitions so every New Years Day, I make black eyed peas and collard greens with a side of cornbread! As I started digging into why this is believed, I was amazed by the history behind this tradition. 

For over 1,000 years, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day has been considered good luck. In the Talmud written around 500 A.D., it was a Jewish custom at the time to eat black-eyed peas in celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

According to common folklore, the tradition spread after the Civil War. Under General Sherman’s march, the Union Army stole the Confederates’ food supplies but left the peas and pork, believing they were food for the animals. However the Southern soldiers felt lucky to have these supplies to get them through the cold winter. Another Southern tradition states that black-eyed peas are a symbol of emancipation for previously enslaved African-Americans, who were officially freed on New Year’s Day after the Civil War

If you serve black eyed peas with cornbread, it represents gold, and if they are stewed with tomatoes, it symbolizes wealth and health. As for collard greens, they’re green like money and will ensure you a financially prosperous new year.

Some people will even put a penny or a dime inside the pot of peas. Whoever is “lucky” enough to receive the coin will have the most luck for the rest of the year. In my family, my grandmother used to say whoever finds the bay leaf in their dish, has luck all year. A bay leaf is much safer than swallowing a coin! 

Seriously, I could go on and on about the theories and beliefs of this tradition. I encourage you to do some research yourself. For now, let’s get to cooking!

BLACK EYED PEAS INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 4 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 lb. Black Eyed Peas, dried, uncooked and not soaked
  • 1 lb. Ham Hock, or Ham bone (if you don’t have either you can use ½ cup real bacon bites)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups Chicken Broth
  • 2 cups Water
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

BLACK EYED PEAS INSTRUCTIONS

Turn on Instant Pot using the saute function, and allow the pot to get hot. 

Once hot, add the oil and onions. Cook the onions until they are soft and translucent (about 5 minutes)

Add the garlic and continue cooking for 30 seconds. 

Press CANCEL on the Instant Pot. 

Add the dried, uncooked, not soaked Black Eyed Peas, bay leaves, thyme, red pepper flakes and stir to combine the peas and seasonings. 

Make a well in the middle of the peas and add the Ham hock. 

Slowly pour in the broth and water. 

Close the lid, and set the valve to sealing. Press the manual (pressure cook) button, and adjust the time to 20 minutes. 

After the time is up, allow 15 minutes natural release before opening the valve to release any remaining pressure. 

Carefully, open the lid, and remove the bay leaves and ham hock, try to remove any meat from the bone and add it to the peas. If you are using bacon bites, leave them in the pot. 

Stir in the tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.

Salt and Pepper to taste. 

Serve.

Check out my Collard Green recipe next!

Blogs, Recipes

Crispy Pan-Fried Chicken

Edna Lewis, known as both the Grande Dame and Grande Doyenne of southern cooking, she was among the first African American women from the south to write a cookbook that did not hide the author’s true name, gender or race.

She was born and grew up in rural Virginia in an area called Freetown. She learned to cook from an extended family that included grandparents who had been enslaved. They didn’t have measuring spoons or scales, so instead, they used coins by piling baking powder on pennies, salt on dimes, and baking soda on nickels. This ensured the right amount was used in each dish. Interesting little tidbit: Lewis is said to have been able to tell when a cake was finished baking by listening to the sound it was making. 

She loved to use fresh, in season ingredients and characterized Southern food as fried chicken (pan, not deep-fried), pork, and fresh vegetables – most especially greens. She is a beacon of fried chicken perfection. Inspired by her pan-fried chicken, below is my pan-fried chicken recipe. 

She wrote and co-wrote four books which covered Southern cooking and life in a small community of freed slaves and their descendants. 

Dr. Edna Lewis passed away from cancer in 2006, at the age of 89. In 2014, she was  honored by the United State Postal Service with her very own postal stamp.

I encourage you to continue my research on Edna Lewis. She was an interesting lady with many talents! She actually made a dress for Marilyn Monroe!

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs. Chicken, drumsticks and thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. 

In a bowl or resealable plastic bag, place the chicken, garlic powder, paprika, red pepper flakes and dried Italian seasoning and shake to coat the chicken. Cover or seal and refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Pour 1/2 to 1 inch of oil into a deep 12-inch cast-iron skillet and heat until a pinch of flour sizzles upon contact (about 360 degrees F). 

Set a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet and set aside. 

In a bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs. 

Place the flour, a pinch of salt and 1 ½ teaspoon ground pepper in a separate bowl. Whisk to combine. 

Dip the chicken in the egg and milk mixture, drain off the excess, then dredge in the flour, shaking off the excess.

Working in batches, place the chicken skin-side down in the skillet and fry for 3 minutes without moving. Continue to fry, turning the chicken every 1 to 2 minutes to ensure even browning and cooking, until the chicken is cooked through, 11 to 15 minutes. 

Drain on the rack and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Blogs, Recipes

Homemade Mac & Cheese

As many of you know, I joined the initiative #EducateYourself. I knew some but I am learning so much more. As a foodie, I wanted to learn more about the Black Culinary community, this is where I learned about James Hemings and his brother. 

The story of James Hemings is  fascinating, here’s a little taste. 

In the 18th century, James Hemings was one of America’s most accomplished chefs. He was also Thomas Jefferson’s slave. Hemings grew up as a household slave in Monticello, Jefferson’s Virginia estate. He could read and write and Jefferson trusted him. So when Jefferson sailed to France in 1784 to become America’s trade minister, he brought Hemings with him. While in Paris, Hemings was trained in the art of French cooking. He studied first with the caterer and restaurateur, Monsieur Combeaux, apprenticing with pastry chefs. After three years of study he became the head chef at the Hôtel de Langeac, Jefferson’s residence that functioned also as the American embassy. Here his dishes were served to international guests, statesmen, authors, scientists, and European aristocrats.

In 1796, James Hemings was freed by Jefferson on the condition that James would train his younger brother to replace him as chef in the Jefferson household. In 1802, Jefferson served a “macaroni pie” at a state dinner, more than likely prepared from a recipe by James and cooked by his brother. Since that time, the dish has been associated with the United States. Unfortunately, no written record of the Hemingway’s mac and cheese survives.

Enslaved chefs played a huge role in refining some of America’s current staple foods, like mac and cheese.

If you want to learn more about James Hemings. Check out: Thomas Jefferson’s Crème Brûlée: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America written by Thomas J. Craughwell . There’s even a children’s picture book, My Name Is James Madison Hemings written by Jonah Winter. 

Here is my Mac & Cheese recipe, inspired by the 1824 cookbook “The Virginia Housewife” written by Mary Randolph. It is believed that  Randolph’s recipe may have been one of James Hemings creations.

Pair this Mac and Cheese with Scout & Cellar 2019 Fiddleneck Chardonnay, Lake County, California

INGREDIENTS

  • Butter, to grease the dish
  • 16 ounces large elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups Milk
  • 2 cups Half and Half
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups Italian cheese blend. shredded
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Smoked paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon mustard powder

Topping:

  • 1 sleeve Ritz Crackers, crushed
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup shredded cheese
  • ¼ tsp Smoked paprika

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and butter a 3 qt baking dish (9×13″). Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When boiling, add the dried pasta and cook 1 minute less than the package directs for al dente.  

While pasta is cooking, mix all 3 cheeses in a large bowl. Remove ½ cup of the mixed cheese and set aside, you will use this for the topping. 

Drain the pasta and drizzle olive oil over the pasta and combine to keep from sticking.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Sprinkle in the flour and whisk to combine.  Mixture will look like very wet sand. Cook for approximately 1 minute, whisking often.  

Slowly pour in the 2 cups of the milk, while whisking constantly, until smooth.  

Next, slowly pour in the 2 cups of half and half, while whisking constantly, until combined and smooth.

Continue to heat over medium heat, whisking often, until thickened. 

Lower the heat and stir in seasonings and whisk together. 

Stir in 1 ½ cups of the cheeses, stirring to melt and combine.  

Stir in the rest of the cheese, and stir until completely melted and smooth. Remove from heat. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine pasta with cheese sauce, stirring to combine fully.  

Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish.  

For the topping, mix the 1/4 remaining cup melted butter, remaining cheese and crushed crackers together in a bowl; scatter the cracker mixture evenly over the macaroni.

Bake until the cheese is bubbly and the top is lightly golden brown for about 15 minutes.