Jambalaya With Black-Eyed Peas

 

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, more commonly known as Mardi Gras. I’m not from New Orleans, but I spent enough years in the Deep South to have this celebration in my soul.

Being able to toss beads or join in the festivities on Bourbon Street this year, I knew I had to do something to feel like I’d truly honored the day. I dug around in my kitchen and came up with the basic ingredients of a traditional Jambalaya.

Usually, this dish contains ham and/or shrimp, and/or chicken, and/or sausage. The only thing I could come up with this time was one lone sausage, so that’s what I used. Fortunately, when I added about a cup of black-eyed peas leftover from New Year’s Day, I found pieces of ham.

You can add the seasoning for your own taste, but I like spicy!

 

My Version of Jambalaya

Into a slow cooker, I put:
1 can non-fat chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large sliced spicy sausage
1 cup Jasmine Brown Rice blended with Wild Rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 diced garlic cloves
2 diced baby bell peppers (from my garden)
½ large onion, diced
A handful of chopped parsley (from my garden)
2 broken bay leaves
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin

All of this cooked for 4-5 hours on high. The last 30 minutes, I put in the pre-cooked black-eyed peas. I think you could put it on low for 8-9 hours if you wanted to leave it all day. Any bean can be added, but somehow the black-eyed peas seemed more in keeping with New Orleans.

“Laissez les bon temps rouler” (let the good times roll), as any good New Orleanian would say, until the beginning of Lent.

Lucky Black-Eyed Peas

 

Every culture has its “lucky food” to be eaten on the first day of each new year. Most of the sites I checked talk about the symbolism of money. For instance, greens would represent folding dollar bills, and peas would symbolize coins. My theory is somewhat different. I believe the lucky food will be something that is common to the culture, inexpensive, traditional, healthy, and a “comfort food.”

Anyone who has ever lived in the Deep South, or if you know someone who has, then you know that a pot of black-eyed peas is a “must” on New Year’s Day for good luck. Occasionally, people eat “Hoppin’ John,” which is spiced up and served over rice. That’s a wonderful dish, too, but regular black-eyed peas is really all it takes to be lucky in the new year.

There is no recipe for this, other than to take black-eyed peas, either fresh (haven’t seen those in Hawaii), frozen (a little easier to find), or dried (which is what I did this year), and cook them up with whatever kind of pork you have on hand. Occasionally, I’ve cut up some kale or chard from my garden to add later.

The pork can be bacon, leftover ham, ham hock, or what in the South, we called “sow belly.” I had half a rasher of bacon and some sow belly. I soaked the peas overnight, drained them the next morning and added more water for simmering.

There are other ways to do this. For example, you can do it in a slow cooker, or bring to a boil then let sit for a couple hours. Everyone has their favorite way of doing it. For me, it all depends on my mood and how much time I want to take. The slower you cook them, the better they taste. I add chopped onion, and either salsa or hot sauce of some sort.

I tried to get a close-up of the peas in the pot, but the steam kept fogging up the camera lens, so this is the clearest I was able to get.

 

Along with corn bread and a hot pepper sauce that my brother sent me from Florida, I served them to a friend who came to supper. Enough peas were eaten by both of us to keep us going all year. (That’s not intended as a joke!)

Hau`oli Makahiki Hou!
(Happy New Year!)