It’s not unusual to find a pot of beans on the stove in many Southern homes this time of year. The best male cook I know grew up in a family that always made a pot of navy bean soup for the new year. A neighbor baked a fresh ham for Christmas this year and her mother took home the ham bone to make a pot of bean soup on New Year’s Day. The story goes that beans are considered a source of good luck and prosperity for the New Year. I’ll take some of that.
Black-eyed peas have an earthy flavor, and their cute little “black eye” makes them a favorite in our house. This recipe uses a smoked ham hock, but if time is short it’s no problem to substitute 1 cup of chopped ham or 1 cup chopped smoked turkey sausage for the ham hock, and reduce the cooking time to 25 minutes. Once I even prepared these beans without any ham or meat, and substituted vegetable broth for the chicken broth making quite a tasty, vegan good-luck meal. Always remember there are not many rules in cooking savory meals, especially soups. My recipes are intended to be a guide and provide inspiration, nothing more. Here’s to a year filled with good luck, prosperity, and beans!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon thyme
1 smoked ham hock
One 16-ounce bag frozen black-eyed peas or 2 cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed (about 3 cups)
8 ounces fresh or frozen chopped turnip greens or kale (about 1 1/2 cups)
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or stock
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrots and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, Creole seasoning, and thyme. Cook stirring for 1 minute. Add the ham hock, black-eyed peas, greens and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the beans are tender. Turn heat to very low and remove ham hock from the peas. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the hock. Chop the ham and add back to the beans. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Serve immediately.