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Black-Eyed Peas Recipes To Kick Start The New Year

The Huffington Post    
First Posted: 12/25/11 10:36 AM ET Updated: 12/26/11 02:56 AM ET

As ubiquitous as champagne and confetti on New Year's Eve, black-eyed peas are a staple in African-American homes come January 1.

Like its soul-food kin, hoppin' John, as the peas are called when cooked with rice, is rooted in slave culture and has been eaten throughout the South for good luck on New Year's Day (alongside collard greens, which are said to bring money, and cornbread for good health).

According to Andrew F. Smith's "Oxford Companion To American Food And Drink," the dish rose to prominence in South Carolina's low country, where rice-growing slaves from West Africa prepared it in dishes based on those they made in their homeland. And though it started out as a tradition among slaves, its inclusion in an 1847 cookbook called "The Carolina Housewife" by Sarah Rutledge signaled its acceptance in upper-class kitchens as well.

The name, which is said to derive from the Hindi and Malagasy words "babatta kachang," meaning cooked rice and legumes, eventually became hoppin' John when people substituted similar sounds for words they could neither pronounce nor understand, according to the "Oxford Companion."

Black-eyed peas may also be sold under the name called cowpea and if the "eye" is yellow, yellow-eyed pea. They can be purchased fresh or dried.

Here, four chefs share their favorite recipes for this popular New Year's Day tradition.

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Fastest New Year's Black-Eyed Peas By Sunny Anderson
1  of  5
6 strips of bacon, chopped
1 cup of onions, roughly chopped
6-8 sprigs thyme, twined or choose sprigs already connected
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
16-ounce bag frozen black-eyed peas
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
1 roma tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a pot cook bacon on medium high until all the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel.

In the same pot, add to bacon fat the onion, thyme, red pepper flakes and season with a pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper. Cook while stirring until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook while stirring until fragrant, but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add bag of peas, stock and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and pull out thyme. Stir in tomatoes, sour cream and reserved bacon bits. Serve warm.

Yield: 6-8 servings
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 34 minutes
Inactive time: 20 minutes