Saturday, September 28, 2013

Black-Eyed Pea Casserole - Blue Monday

Featured on Amuse Bouche the blog for Where Women Cook.

Barbecue season is rapidly approaching and with it come large gatherings of family and friends. This casserole is wonderful for picnics, barbecues or covered dish suppers. It was develop years ago for my Southern son-in-law who, as luck would have it, has yet to taste it. It is an economical dish and that makes it perfect for church suppers or organization picnics. Anyone who has ever managed one of these affairs knows the importance of foods that are inexpensive and allow dollars to be stretched as far as possible. The black-eyed pea, which is actually a bean, originated in Asia and was brought to the United States by slave traders. This small beige bean has a black circular "eye" at its inner curve. While originally grown as animal fodder, the beans, which are also called cowpeas, have become popular and are associated with good luck. Prior to the siege of Vicksburg during the American Civil War, the beans were used exclusively for feeding cattle. The siege lasted for 40 days and the people of the town were forced to eat cowpeas to avoid starvation. That started a southern tradition and nowadays they are eaten by some on New Year's Day to bring good luck in the coming year. The beans have been associated with luck and fortune since the days of the pharaohs. The superstitious believe that those who eat the humble cowpea show humility and will be protected from the wrath that will be visited on the vain. Fortunately, there are no meteor showers or thunderbolts tonight, so we can talk a bit about the casserole. It is very easy to make but plan on lead time for soaking the beans. Many feel this is not necessary, but I think the dish has better texture when the beans are soaked for 8 hours before proceeding with the recipe. If you want a completely vegan dish, saute the onions in vegetable oil. If you love bacon, fry four rashers of diced bacon and use the drippings to saute the onions. The bacon adds enormous flavor to the dish and I recommend using it if you can. As with all casseroles, flavor improves if the dish is allowed to sit overnight. That's it. Here's the recipe.

Black-Eyed Pea Casserole


2 cups dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and soaked overnight in cold water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Optional: 4 slices bacon, diced

2 cups finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons molasses

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon ground mustard powder

1/4 cup tomato paste or tomato catsup

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 large bay leaf

1 spring each fresh rosemary, thyme and sage

1 small orange

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped


1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Drain and rinse soaked beans. Place in a heavy bottomed sauce pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse again. Place into a 3-quart to 4-quart casserole.

2) While beans are boiling, heat oil in a large skillet. If using bacon, add to skillet and saute until bacon is brown. Add onions and saute over medium heat until softened and transparent, about 5 minutes. Stir in honey, molasses, soy sauce, mustard and tomato paste or catsup. Pour in stock and bring to a boil. Pour mixture over beans in casserole.

3) Tie bay leaf and herbs together with a piece of string and add to pot. Pare 3 wide strips of zest from orange. Mix zest and black pepper into bean mixture. Bring to a boil. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Bake for 1 hour.

4) Meanwhile, combine juice from orange with cornstarch and blend to form a smooth paste.

5) At end of hour, remove casserole from oven. Stir in paste and diced red peppers. Return casserole to oven, cover, and bake for 1 hour longer, or until beans are very tender.

6) Remove orange rind and herbs. Garnish with parsley and serve while hot. Yield 4 to 6 servings.

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