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Spicy Red Cow Peas

Growing up we had pinto beans or black-eyed peas for dinner at least once a week.

As a child they were never my favorite – but it didn’t matter. Having a choice at dinner time was a luxury that was not afforded in my family. They were usually simply cooked – seasoned with salt pork, salt and pepper, and occasionally some chili from a bag of Adam’s Chili Powder from Gonzales. Adam’s is best known for the extract that made it famous but it is one of the longest continuously operating companies in Texas. My mom would always skimp on the seasonings so my dad kept the bag at the dinner table so he could spice it up to his liking.

This version is spiced up even a bit more but it is still simple. Instead of pinto beans or black-eyes I’ve used sea island red peas. Most of the peas that we are familiar with in Texas are garden peas – shelled fresh and cooked fresh. Think the English pea. But field peas like sea island red peas are planted as winter crops to improve nitrogen in the soil. They are often used in rotation with rice and corn especially in the sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia and are an essential component of the pea and rice dish hoppin’ John.

You can get sea island red peas along with Carolina gold rice and other heirloom grains from Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills who has dedicated his career to rescuing the taste heritage of primitive American foods. I promise you that this recipe is worth the effort of ordering them from Glenn and he will likely personally thank you. When you taste the history in these peas – you should thank him.

2 tbs vegetable oil

1/2 cup white onion, chopped

1/4 cup dry vermouth

1 cup sea island red peas, soaked in water over night or at least 8 hours, drained

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

10 oz. can diced tomatoes & green chilis, spice level your discretion (we use medium Rotel)

1/2 tsp chili powder

16 oz. chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

1 shallot, diced

These are best cooked in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, but you can cook them on the stove top by increasing the amount of chicken stock.

Sauté the onion in the vegetable oil until soft but not brown and then deglaze the pan with the vermouth. Add the peas, garlic, bay leaf, tomatoes & green chilis, chili powder, and chicken stock and seal the pressure cooker. Cook on medium high setting for 30 minutes and then let the pressure naturally release.

Season the peas with salt and pepper to your taste and serve with diced shallot as a garnish.

#peas #rotel #ansonmills #pressurecooker #instantpot


Dan McCoy