All good Southerners know that a New Year’s Day meal of collards and black-eyed peas assure money and luck in the coming year. As for the corn bead, it’s just good.
4 medium bunches collard greens*
1 smoked ham hock
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons red pepper flake
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
HARDWARE: I’m in favor of a 6-quart pressure cooker. Can you cook your greens in a regular pot? Sure. But a pressure cooker cuts the cook time down by about 300 percent and that not only preserves the flavor and texture of the greens but of the quality of air in your home. Just sayin’.
Tongs or large spoon
Large mixing bowl
1. Fill sink with cold water and tear the greens off the ribs. I usually get about 6 pieces off each leaf. Slosh the leaves around in the water to remove any dirt/bugs/etc.
2. Place the cooker over high heat.
3. Move enough greens to the pressure cooker to fill it half way. Don’t allow them to drain beforehand as the water held by the leaves will become the cooking liquid and therefore the pot liquor that embodies the soul of the dish.
4. Cook the greens until they wilt and turn bright green, about 5 minutes. Remove to the bowl and repeat with the remaining greens.
5. Return the greens to the pressure cooker and stir in the salt, pepper flake, oil and vinegar. Once combined, add the ham hock and cover with greens.
6. Affix the lid (check the manual) and place over high heat. Once the cooker comes to pressure, reduce the heat to just maintain an even “hiss.” Typically, low heat does the job.
7. Cook 30 minutes.
8. Kill the heat and release the pressure on the cooker. (Most modern cookers use a spring-loaded device and will feature a release switch/button.) If you don’t want to wait on that simply move to the sink and spray lid and sides with cold water.
9. Once the pressure lock is released, open the cooker and use the tongs to remove the greens to a bowl. Leave the hock and the liquid inside and reaffix the lid.
10. Return to heat and cook another 30 minutes.
11. Release pressure and open cooker. At this point the hock will be very broken down and the liquid will be fragrant. Pick the skin off the hock and remove the bone. Break up the remainder of the meat and stir the greens and their liquid back into the meaty bits.
12. Transfer to a bowl and consume. You’ll notice that the gelatin from the hock makes the pot liquor finger lickin’ good.
*Okay, so I realize it’s almost impossible to standardize a “bunch.” What I will tell you is that said bunches should pretty much fill a standard 21”x16”x7” kitchen sink.
THE BLACK EYED PEAS
20 oz fresh (as in not dried) black eyed peas*
1/2 onion, chopped (5 ounces)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Italian herb mix (typically oregano, basil, thyme)
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
Water as needed
Large sauce pan
1. Place peas in sauce pan and add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. A lot of nasty foam will be created and that’s the point. When the water reaches a boil, remove from the heat and use the spoon to remove the foam. Then drain the peas in the colander and rinse with cold water.
2. Return peas to pan and add enough water to cover by 1-inch. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer, stirring often (uncovered) until the beans are soft, approximately one hour.
3. Serve peas with plenty of the pot liquor.
THE CORN BREAD
1 cup white corn meal
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 and 1/4 cup buttermilk
8 inch cast iron skillet
Two mixing bowls
A large rubber spatula
Assorted measuring devices.
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F and place rack in the middle position.
2. Lightly oil the skillet and place in oven to heat.
3. Whisk all the dry goods together in one bowl.
4. Whisk all the wet ingredients together in another bowl.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix roughly together with spatula.
6. Carefully pour batter into skillet and bake 25 minutes or until golden brown and just set on inside.
7. Turn out finished bread onto cutting board and cool 3 minutes before cutting and serving with plenty of butter (or, if your hard core, crushed up in a bowl of buttermilk).
Recipe and images © Alton Brown, 2014.