Monday, June 8, 2015

The Daily Beans ~ Black Eyed Peas & Pork Belly!

     Down Home Soul Food Style Daily Beans!
     There is no single definition of soul food.  Food that is slow cooked in a pot is one definition.  Down home souther cookin' is another definition.  Cooking that has its roots in African cuisine is yet one more definition.  
     In West Africa, tribes cooked cow pea stews on a daily basis.  Black Eyed Peas are a type of cow pea.  The broth of a cow pea stew is rich in nutrients and flavor.  Soul food chefs call the broth of nearly anything that is stewed by the name pot liquor, because a rich broth should be slowly savored.  
     Pot liquor develops as the broth reduces during slow simmering.  Usually, slow cooked field pea or black eyed pea stews are started by browning chopped onion.  The onion literally melts into the broth after slow simmering and a great pot liquor flavor develops.   
     Pork belly has become a trendy meat in recent years, but there are many old traditional recipes that call for pork belly.  In the old days, chunks of pork belly were more commonly used to flavor a pot of black eyed peas than strips of bacon.  Sliced bacon was a store bought convenience that cost extra money.  Whole sections of pork belly or smoked pork belly were a common item on any farm that had a sty full of pigs.  
     Tender pork belly meat has a large amount of fat and the rendered fat helps the black eyed peas to cook tender.  The fat also adds flavor.  Its up to the individual whether to eat the fat or not.  Some folks do like to "chew the fat" at the dinner table!

     Black Eyed Peas and Pork Belly:  
     This recipe yields 2 to 3 hearty portions!
     Step 1:  Soak 3 cups of dried black eyed peas in a container of water in a refrigerator overnight.
     Rinse the black eyed peas with cold running water.  Discard any discolored peas or little stones.
     Step 2:  Heat a pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 8 ounces of skinned pork belly that is cut into large bite size cube shaped pieces.
     Sauté till the pork belly pieces just start to lightly brown.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion.
     Add 2 crushed garlic cloves.
     Sauté till the onions are a light brown color.
     Step 4:  Add the rinsed black eyed peas.
     Add 2 cups of light pork broth.
     Add enough water to cover the black eyed peas with 2" of extra liquid.
     Step 5:  Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of cider vinegar.
     Step 6:  Bring the liquid to a boil over medium high heat. 
     Boil for 17 minutes.  Add water if necessary.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Slowly simmer the black eyed peas, till they are cooked very tender.  (Do not stir the peas too often, or they will break up and form a thick gravy.  That is unless, that is how you like your black eyed peas to be!) 
     Step 8:  Remove the lid.
     Simmer till the liquid reduces to about the same level as the black eyed peas.
     Keep the Black Eyed Peas & Pork Belly warm over very low heat.
     Step 9:  Serve the black eyed peas in a large bowl and try to expose the chunks of pork belly on top of the peas.
     Serve with cornbread and hot sauce on the side.
     No garnish is necessary!
     Simple, delicious, healthy and satisfying daily beans for the body and soul!   

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