By Jenni Finlay
Dad was always serious about his lucky black-eyed peas. I can’t remember a year in my whole life when we didn’t have them. If ever anyone would complain about what a crummy year they had had, and all the bad luck they had to endure — suggesting that maybe the peas didn’t work this time — he would always say, “Well think about how worse it would have been if you HADN’T had your black-eyed peas! Better eat double this year!”
When I was interviewing him for the upcoming book, Kent Finlay, Dreamer (co-written with Brian T. Atkinson and coming out March 2, 2016 on Texas A&M University Press), I asked him for his secret recipe. I don’t think he would mind me sharing it now with the rest of the world. So here it is, from Dad and our family to yours. May your 2016 be extra lucky.
From Kent Finlay:
“I did one with pork and one without. But the one without was just as good as the one with. So it doesn’t matter. I just put pork because some people expect it. Black-eyed peas are really good. You know you have to cook them longer than you think you have to cook them. You got to get that okra in there too, because it kinda cooks apart and thickens the juice, makes it so delicious.
For Cheatham Street, I cook about six of those sacks of dry peas. For home, I do two pounds. Just put them in with a little onion, and a whole sack of okra. And you can put olive oil or salt pork. Or you don’t have to. Make sure you salt it, maybe add a little black pepper, however you like them. And cook them for a long time. That’s about it. Cook them until they’re really,really tender. Until each little pea kind of explodes. They’re ready in about two hours, but cook them for four hours … really slow.”
* * *
Kent Finlay’s Black-Eyed Peas
(Ingredients for one household):
2 lbs dry black eyed peas
2 tbs olive oil OR hunk (1 inch slice) of salt pork*
1 yellow onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 sack frozen whole okra
handful of salt
black pepper to taste
(* Only one fat is needed, so skip the olive oil if you’re using pork!)
Sort your peas (getting rid of any rocks) and soak them for about two hours or overnight. Drain and wash thoroughly. Put your peas, onion and garlic and oil or salt pork in a heavy pot and cover with water (about an inch). Cover with a good lid or tin plate that fits and cook for about an hour over medium-low heat. Stir every once in a while just to be looking at them. After about an hour, add your okra and salt. The okra will begin to break down in a bit, but squash it against the sides of the pot to help it out a little. Add your pepper if you’d like and taste it to be sure it’s getting good. You might need a friend or two to help with the tasting part. Keep cooking it until the juice is thick and kinda grey and the peas are really tender. Good luck!