Belgians and BBQ – it’s what they do in the summer. Kids hop in and out of blowup pools (and not the kiddie ones you have in your American-mind – these babies are about the size of a hot tub). Guests sip iced tea or glasses of rose’ while the host fires up the grill. Everyone is invited to bring dessert or a side.
We were the only Americans invited to a Belgian BBQ a few weeks ago and I thought I’d treat them to one of my favorite, and most Texan, side-salads I could think of – Texas Caviar. My friends, after filling their plates, eyed my salad with interest.
“So, ja, what is this?” a fellow mom questioned. I smiled.
“Well – it’s called Texas Caviar,” I explained, and they all smirked, “The main ingredients are black-eyed peas and peppers.”
The mom cocked her head and laughed, “Well, dat is interesting, I always just thought black eyed peas were a music group. Never thought I’d eat one,” but she took a bite. “Wow, very good!” and I was proud.
So, this is my Not Your Fergie’s Black-Eyed Peas recipe. I make these every New Year’s Day, because as any good Southerner knows, they bring good luck for the year ahead. As mentioned, these are the key ingredient to Texas Caviar.
Note: This recipe makes a lot (about 5-6 U.S. Cups) but you can freeze the cooked peas and reheat later.
1 pound (about 2 ½ U.S. cups or 450 grams) dried black-eyed peas (See Pearl of Wisdom below)
1 chicken bullion cube
1/2 pound (about 225 grams) uncooked bacon
1 large onion, diced
3 jalapenos, seeds and stems removed, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup (25 grams) chopped cilantro (koriander)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili or cayenne powder
3 or 4 shakes of Liquid Smoke
Using a colander, rinse and sort through the peas. Throw away any stones or shriveled peas. Put peas in a large pot and cover with 2 inches (about 5 cm) of water and add bullion cube. Bring to a boil then turn down heat to low and simmer, covered. Set your timer for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a skillet until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Pour excess bacon grease into container (See Pearl of Wisdom below), reserving a couple tablespoons of bacon grease. Add onions and jalapenos to skillet and cook until tender, but not soggy (about five minutes). Add garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Add the onions, jalapenos, and garlic to black-eyed pea pot. Crumble bacon and add to pot as well. Add chopped cilantro, cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, and liquid smoke. Continue to simmer, covered, until the hour is complete.
Pearl of Wisdom, Black-eyed Peas: Unlike many of their cousins, black-eyed peas don’t really need pre-soaking. They cook very quickly and soft, absorbing the flavor of the sauce they are cooked in.
Pearl of Wisdom, Bacon Grease: Never pour bacon grease down the sink – it will clog the pipes. I have a horror story of a clueless neighbor in Waco that clogged the main drain for an entire block of apartments. . . My mother kept a coffee can handy when I was growing up, but now I use a glass jar (or simply wipe clean with paper towels and toss in the trash) for drippings.