True Confessions of a Mid-Life Cook

There's a definite correlation between my profound love of music and how and what I've taught myself to cook. My favorite music to listen to and to perform is soulful, sensual, sometimes funky and always bluesy in nature . . . and that's exactly how I cook. I like to get my hands in the food. I chop, I knead, I stir with my hands. Sometimes I wear my big rimmed cowboy hat, nightie and Old Gringo boots in kitchen, sometimes a coonskin cap when the mood strikes and sometimes just an apron and a smile. Using the freshest of ingredients, I love to bringing a new spirit to old favorites. I am so to drawn dishes seeping in both Texas and Southern tradition,with a special affinity for those authentic old jewels found in South Louisiana.
Because they, too, are so powerfully soulful?

I've discovered being a good cook is a journey and not a destination. (Yes, I stole an over-used corporate slogan and made it my own--but it's still the truth) Every time we screw up, we learn. And in part, that's what this blog is about. Cooking fearlessly. With heart, with soul -- and with some damn good music to inspire. (If your three layer chocolate cake ends up looking like a Jerry Springer rerun or you cut the tip of your thumb off while making New Year's Day gumbo, WHO CARES?Proclaim Francine Reed's "I'm a Handful" your theme song. She would like that.)
We cook because we find ourselves kinda empty if we don't.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Black Eyed Peas

Eating black eyed peas on New Years Day is considered a sacred ritual at my house. Particularly by me. I mean, why would anyone in their right mind turn down a spoonful of 'luck' for the new year? Besides, my crew - and our cohorts - need all the luck we can get.

Yes,I've been known to chase down, tackle and force these legumes down the mouths/noses/ears of teenage boys who initially refuse my offering. The one or two who aren't too fond of peas now know to wrap just one in cornbread, insert into mouth and swallow. It's much easier that way. In fact, a couple of years ago, one of my kids turned to his friend who was hesitant about eating a pea and said, "You can do this the easy way, or the hard way. Trust me, you're going to eat a pea before you leave this place."

I tend to make my peas a little differently every year, however, a couple of things remain consistent. 1) I prefer using fresh peas, but will use frozen. NEVER dried or canned. (Come on, it's not ANY trouble and the end result is sooo worth it.) And 2) I always use a hamhock.

Last year's peas were the best in recent memory (friends swooned) and I'm proud of jotting down the ingredients and method. So many times I don't.

Four small sacks of frozen peas covered with half good quality chicken stock, half dark beer. Bring to hard boil and add hamhock, about a tablespoon of sea salt (depends on the saltiness of your chicken stock,)and two links of finely chopped andouille sausage. Boil for one hour, stirring occasionally. Turn down to simmer and add small diced green and red bell pepper, finely chopped onion, pinch of oregano and basil, add two bay leaves, a good shake or two of fajita seasoning, a drop of liquid smoke, a pinch of cayenne and two cans of diced tomatoes. Let simmer down for another 2 hours, stirring occasionally and add a little liquid if needed.

(Oops, I forgot the garlic. Surely, I used garlic? Probably a couple of minced cloves.)

May 2010 bring everybody a whole lotta luck . . .and love. And just remember to eat a damn pea. Or more.

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