How many of you celebrated New Year’s Day eating black-eyed peas to bring you good luck for the New Year? Did you eat Texas Caviar, Hoppin’ John, or just the black-eyed peas heated straight out of the can with a little seasoning? Perhaps you are like my husband who thinks that black-eyed peas taste like wood chips and manage to swallow one pea like a pill and hope that is enough to bring you all the luck you need for the new year ahead. Not only did my husband not like the peas or my tradition, he wanted nothing to do with the wood chips. He grew up eating pork and sauerkraut on New Years Day.
As in all good marriages, you learn to compromise and this was an easy fix. I knew the Italian side of his family would love risotto, while his German side of the family would love spareribs and sauerkraut. My southern upbringing knew that we would make our own tradition by starting with a little bowl of black-eyed pea risotto followed by spareribs and sauerkraut. This is now OUR family tradition. And guess what…he loves the black-eyed peas this way. How lucky can I get.
If you are in the group that doesn’t like black-eyed peas or need to get someone you love to eat some for luck, then this recipe may change the image of this humble little pea (or bean as some people think of them). It is so good that you don’t have to wait until next year to give the recipe a try.
My recipe is actually simple but requires two steps. The first step to making you love black-eyed peas is making a stock from ham hocks. The good news is that not only do you get to have a wonderful stock to freeze for future uses, you get a small amount of flavorful meat that will go into your risotto.
Put two smoked ham hocks (use one hock per person if increasing the risotto for more than two people) in a large pot, cover with water by an extra couple of inches, add a chopped small onion, one chopped carrot, one chopped stalk of celery, two bay leaves, a sprig or two of thyme, a couple of garlic cloves and 5 or 6 whole peppercorns. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for a minimum of two hours (longer makes a richer tasting stock), skimming the liquid when necessary. Add additional water if needed. Remove the hocks when they are tender and falling off the bones. Let cool and then take the meat off the bone. Strain the broth and set aside to cool. * I do this step a day or two ahead. I refrigerate the amount of broth I will need for the recipe and freeze the rest in small containers. The stock is wonderful when cooking beans or greens.
Black-eyed Pea Risotto
- 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 small onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 3/4 c. Arborio rice
- 1/2 c. dry white wine
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped, more is you wish a garnish
- 1 can black-eyed peas, drained and washed*
- cooked and shredded ham hock meat (see above)
- 2 c. stock mixed with 1 c. water, heated and kept at a simmer
- 1/4 tsp. or more, red chili flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat the stock, add the black-eyed peas and cook gently for 5 minutes. Remove peas, set aside and keep stock simmering. Heat oil in a sauté pan, add onion and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the rice, stir to coat, and cook about a minute. Add the wine and cook until evaporated. Start adding the warm stock, a ladle full at a time. stirring until absorbed. Continue adding liquid until risotto is creamy and done to your liking, about 20 minutes or so. Add the thyme, black-eyed peas and red chili flakes. Stir gently until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the reserved ham hock meat. (This serves two dinner size portions and can easily be increased accordingly.)
Variations to this dish are easy. *You can use dried black-eyed peas or frozen peas and cook according to package directions. If you don’t want to use ham hocks, use chicken stock and bacon for flavor. You can add diced peppers or tomatoes if you wish. Tabasco or other hot sauces can be served alongside or with grated Parmesan cheese.