• Sarah O'Kelley

Luck & Deliciousness in 2020

One of my favorite meals of the year has to be the New Year’s Day feast that is traditional in the southeastern United States. And every year I ask myself, “Why not cook this more often?” So in that spirit here are my recipes for the two staples of a Southerner’s New Year’s Day: braised greens and peas.

I am sure you might guess that the greens signify money. But peas? Well according to wives’ tales they signify coins (so more money)! And then you will also find folks eating cornbread to represent gold (even more money)! But honestly, you just can’t eat greens without cornbread.

You will find slight variations on this theme across the southeast. For example, in Georgia I grew up eating collard greens, but upon moving to New Orleans I found everyone eating cabbage. I’ve been told this goes back to the Irish roots of many New Orleanians, and while living there I was quick to adopt it (after all my last name is O’Kelley)! But now that I am back in the collard green country of South Carolina I have forsaken the cabbage.

And about those peas...you will most often find folks cooking black eyed peas. But here in South Carolina an awesome food preservationist by the name of Glenn Roberts saved an heirloom pea from extinction: Sea Island Red Peas. These are so much tastier than any generic grocery store pea that I always use them and serve over Carolina Gold Rice (another heirloom crop that Roberts helped bring back). Both the peas and rice can be bought from ansonmills.com (the company that Roberts founded to preserve traditional Southern grains and more).

What to drink with this feast? Champagne is an obvious choice! Keep the local, preservationist theme going and ask your wine shop for a grower Champagne from a small, independent producer.

Here’s to good luck throughout 2020!

Braised Collard Greens

1 pound bacon (preferably very smoky), chopped

2 medium onions, sliced

8 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

½ cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Tabasco

3 Bay leaves

Bunch of thyme, tied in a bundle

1 quart chicken stock

2 quarts water

2 gallons collards, washed and julienned

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add onions, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar, sugar, hot sauce, Bay leaves, thyme, stock, and water. Bring to a simmer and begin adding the greens in batches. As they wilt you will be able to add more of them (and they will eventually all fit in your pot)!

Cook at a simmer for 2 to 3 hours, until the greens are tender but not mushy. Add more water if needed. Season to taste with more salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Remove bay leaves and thyme bundle before serving.

Yield: About 4 quarts

P.S. A few notes on collards...first, you will find some folks advocating that you cut the spine out of the collards before cooking. In my opinion, this is a waste of time and nutrition as the long braise insures all of the collard is tender (even the spine)! Second, the most important part of prepping your collards is washing them well (especially if they are straight from a farmer’s market)! There is nothing worse than gritty/sandy collards. Finally, collards taste even better the next day and do freeze well!

Sea Island Red Peas

Sea Island Red Peas

2 cups peas, any dried pea will work

Glug of olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 medium celery ribs, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 quart chicken stock

1 quart water

½ teaspoon red pepper flake

3 Bay leaves

Bunch of thyme, tied in a bundle

Soak peas overnight in enough water to cover. (This shortens the cooking time.)

Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add curry powder and cooking stirring for another 2 minutes. Add stock, water, red pepper flake, Bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a simmer, stirring. Add peas and bring back to a simmer. Cook at a simmer for about 2 hours, until peas are tender (add more water if necessary). Transfer 1 ½ cups of peas and broth to a blender. Allow to cool slightly and then pulse until pureed. Add this puree back to your pot to thicken your peas. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.

Remove bay leaves and thyme bundle. Serve over rice.

Yield: 2 quarts

P.S. A few notes on the peas...I borrowed the curry powder component of this recipe from Anson Mills. Growing up our New Year’s Day peas were pretty straightforward, but this little addition of just a touch of curry adds a lot to the dish. Just like the greens, the peas actually taste better on the second day, and they freeze well!

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