Last night we ate at our apartment after Sarah, Evan, and Van went fishing with Jason Brady and his family. It seemed like a perfect time to cook up some purple hull peas I had bought at the farmers market. I went to the grocery store to get some salt pork and tasso, but I probably could have found those at the farmers market, too.
You can’t have peas, tasso, and collards without some cornbread to sop up all of the juices, but none of us was in the mood to bake cornbread in our understocked apartment kitchen. Fortunately we had some leftover corn muffins that had been served with our chicken fried steak at Strawn’s for lunch. The muffins were sweet (Yankee cornbread in Louisiana!?) but they would have to do.
I cooked the meal while the fisher persons were out on the lake.
Purple Hull Peas, Tasso and Collards
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 8 ounces salt pork, cut into a large dice
- enough water to cover the salt pork in a small saucepan
- 32 ounces chicken stock
- 1 quart shelled purple hull peas, fresh or frozen
- 1 large green bell pepper, seeded, deveined, and chopped
- 14 1/2 ounces canned, diced tomatoes (fresh tomatoes would be great, but I forgot to buy them at the farmers market)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- 8 ounces Cajun-style tasso ham, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 large bunch fresh collard greens, washed, trimmed, and cut into a coarse chiffonade
- Louisiana Hot Sauce to taste (optional)
- In a large, covered pot heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions, cover, and sweat until the onions are soft and translucent. Transfer to a bowl.
- Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan and add the salt pork. Return to the boil and boil for 5 minutes to remove any excess salt.. Drain and transfer to the large pot over medium heat. Stir frequently to allow light browning.
- Return the onions to the pot. Add chicken stock and bring to the boil. Stir in the peas, bell pepper, and garlic. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Return to a boil and then adjust the heat to a simmer. Simmer, covered for 1 hour or until the peas are soft.
- Stir in the tasso and simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Add the collard greens and simmer for another 30 minutes or until the greens are thoroughly cooked but not limp. Adjust the seasoning. Be sure to use hot sauce if you like it.
- Serve in large soup bowls.
Whenever our children visit us with their families, as they did this Christmas season, we try to make old favorites from their childhood. Often the food is drawn from the Southwest, but all three of them grew up in Louisiana, so Cajun and Creole dishes are high on the list of favorites. Gumbo is popular, and boiled crawfish in the spring is almost required. Bread pudding and shrimp creole are also on the list, along with red beans and rice.
For as long as anyone can remember, Monday has been laundry day in New Orleans. For as long as anyone can remember, red beans and rice has been the standard Monday supper in New Orleans because it can be started when the wash is started, stirred from time to time during the day, and finished when everyone is ready to gather around the table in the evening. We didn’t live in New Orleans, but the custom is common throughout the entire state of Louisiana.
An essential part of the dish is the meat that is used in the red beans. Traditionally a ham hock is tossed in – mostly for flavor – but also for the morsels of ham that are closest to the bone. Andouille sausage is popular as is Tasso ham. Sometimes you will see whole pork chops swimming in the stew. For this version, I chose boneless pork loin which gives good flavor and tenderness without bones. The chunks of pork fit perfectly on the fork and make a single melt-in-your-mouth bite.
Usually red beans and rice have the spiciness that is famous in Cajun and Creole cooking, but because one of our family members has severe reactions to hot spices, we make it without red pepper or chiles. Not to worry, because it is easy to add your preferred level of hotness at the table with Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce.
Cooked red beans waiting to go back in the pot
Celery and green bell pepper
Sautêing the vegetables (onion, celery, green bell pepper)
Browning pork loin
Scallions to add to the mix and for the top
Ready to eat
Red Beans and Rice
- 1 pound dry small red beans
- water to cover the beans for cooking
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 large bell pepper, seeded and membranes removed, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into ¾ inch cubes
- 1 bunch green scallions including green stems, chopped
- 2 bay leaves or ¼ teaspoon ground bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon ground thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- Louisiana hot sauce to taste
- 1 cup long-grain rice, rinsed in a fine sieve with cold water
- 1½ cups water
- Pour the beans into a heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a ver slow boil. Cover and cook the beans for 1½ to 2 hours or until they are tender. Stir the bottom occasionally and add more water if needed.
- When the beans are tender, transfer them and the cooking liquid to a large bowl Rinse and dry the pot. Then return the pot to a medium flame and add the olive oil.
- When the olive oil is just shimmering, add the chopped onions, lower the heat and cover so that the onions “sweat” (become soft and translucent and give up some of their moisture). Do not let them brown.
- Remove the lid, turn up the heat to medium and stir in the celery, green pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are throughly wilted. Then transfer them and their juices to a plate.
- Return the pot to the stove. Add the cubes of pork and brown them. Use more oil if needed.
- When the meat is evenly browned, return the beans and their liquid, along with the vegetables, and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the scallions, bay leaves, and thyme.
- Simmer the mixture, covered, for an additional hour. Adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper and, if desired, hot sauce. Remove the bay leaves
- While the red beans are cooking, prepare the rice by combining the rice and water in a small covered pot. Bring to the boil. Stir. Cover and reduce the flame to very low. Do not remove the cover, but cook for 20 minutes. Test for doneness. The water should be completely absorbed, and the rice should be fluffy with individual grains.
- Serve by placing a scoop of rice in the middle of a wide-mouthed bowl. Top with the red bean mixture, and serve with additional hot sauce.
Should serve 6 to 8