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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pork, Black-Eyed Peas, and Chard with Pickled Red Onions

Growing up without southern roots, I didn't know much about black-eyed peas until I was an adult. Even then, it has been a slow journey because I wasn't exposed to them much until I found them on the menu of Dixie Bones Barbecue, in Woodbridge, VA. When I grew the legume to "fix nitrogen" in my corn patch, I began to understand why it became an important culinary and agricultural product in southern United States. Now I keep a look out for recipes which use them either fresh or dried. This recent discovery is fantastic with the pickled onion garnish but would still be good without it.


Pork, Black-Eyed Peas, and Chard with Pickled Red Onions

Adapted from: America's Test Kitchen's  The Best Slow and Easy Recipes
Serves:  8


The original recipe called for collards, the traditional accompaniment to black-eyed peas, but I didn't have any in the garden so I substituted chard. I am certain almost any green can be cooked in this dish, just know that cooking times vary depending on the green. Chard (and to a greater extent, spinach) can't take long cooking in the oven but thicker, chewier leaves need it. Just be aware of the difference. Maybe I'll grow collards so I can try them out sometime.

Also, ATK advises cooks against substituting canned or frozen black-eyed peas. I agree with recommendations to avoid canned (they would end up as mush) but I think you can use frozen (I've used home frozen black-eyed peas) but don't soak them. I just add them instead of soaked beans although I only guessed on the amount in the substitution--about twice as many frozen as dried.

One more thing, if you like the idea of the pickled onions being bright pink, you may want to prepare them first so they can sit out while the rest of the dish cooks.

1 pd dried black-eyed peas (about 2 2/3 c), picked over, rinsed, and salt-soaked overnight or quick-salt soaked (see below)
2 pds boneless country-style pork ribs (I couldn't find them so I got 2 1/2 pds with bones--you may want to remove the bones before serving)
4 oz bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 medium red onion, minced
1 large celery rib, finely chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 T)
3 1/2 c low-sodium chicken broth
1 c water
1 bunch chard, leaves stemmed, halved and sliced crosswise
2 bay leaves
1 recipe Sweet and Spicy Pickled Onions, below

Adjust your oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 300F. Drain the beans, discarding the soaking liquid, and rinse well. (At this point you can add frozen black-eyed peas.)

In a large Dutch oven cook bacon until crispy; remove from pan and set aside. Raise heat to medium-high.

Pat the ribs dry and season with salt and pepper.  Brown the ribs on both sides, reducing the heat if the pot begins to scorch. If you have a splatter screen, use it ; otherwise, you'll have a greasy clean-up. Transfer the ribs to a plate.

Pour off all but 2 T fat in pot. Stir in the onion, celery, and 1/4 teas salt and cook, stirring often, until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, water, black-eyed peas, and bay leaves, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to a simmer. (If you are using collard greens, they may be added at this point.)

Nestle the ribs, along with any accumulated juices, into the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover, place the pot in the oven, and cook until the black-eyed peas and the pork are tender (a fork poked into it will meet little resistance) about one hour. Remove pot from oven and stir in the chard. Return to the oven for 10 minutes until the chard is wilted.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve, passing the pickled onions at the table.

This dish can be cooked a day ahead, but add the chard when you reheat it, which can be done on the stove-top rather than the oven.

Sweet and Spicy Pickled Onions

1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/2 c sugar
jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and chopped (the recommended amount is 2 chiles, but I used 1/2 of one chile which resulted in a mild pickle)
1/4 teas salt

Heat the vinegar, sugar, chiles, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat. Stir the onions into the hot vinegar mixture and cover loosely. Let cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. The longer the onions are in the vinegar, the more pink they become, which I find attractive. If you think you'll have left overs, you may want to keep the onions in the vinegar while storing in the refrigerator.

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