With Christmas right around the corner, y’all are all probably thinking honey-glazed ham and Santa approved cookies (hopefully not together), but New Years is quickly approaching. Luckily for you, this month’s theme for Recipe Redux is New Years food traditions, so I’ve got a healthy New Years recipe for you along with links to other Recipe Reduxers for inspiration.
I’ve always found cultural food traditions to be fascinating, and New Years Day certainly has it’s fair share. Lentils in Italy for money, extra-long noodles in China for long life (don’t break them!), and 12 grapes in Spain (13 if you live in Peru!) for luck.
When I was little, my mom would prepare a nice meal for New Years, but never anything traditional. After spending most of my life in the South, I’ve latched on to traditional Southern meal of pork, black-eyed peas, collards and cornbread for New Years.
Pork is eaten for good luck in the New Year, a tradition not just common to the South, but to Cuba, Portugal, Austria and Hungry as well. The Southern tradition of pork for New Years likely came from Germany, where pork is eaten with saurkraut for a “sweet” new year. Others say pork signifies progress forward, since pigs root forward with their snout when looking for food, while chickens and turkeys scratch backward. I’ve heard the more pork you eat on New Years, the more luck you’ll have in the next year, however for the last two years we’ve used just a couple slices of bacon and our luck has been just fine!
We eat black-eyed peas on New Years for wealth. Black-eyed peas became a Southern staple after the Civil War. When Union troops marched through the South, most crops and livestock were destroyed or stolen, except for black-eyed peas (and greens), considered undesirable to the troops. The tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Years actually dates back much earlier, to a 1,500 year old Sephardic Jewish tradition of eating black-eyed peas on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, likely brought to the South from the large Jewish population in Savannah. Because beans expand as they cook, it is said to represent expanding wealth. Also, they just kinda look like coins. Frequently, a penny is placed in the pot of beans before serving. Whoever gets the penny (without accidentally swallowing it), gets extra wealth and luck for the year. Another tradition is to eat at least 365 peas to ensure luck every day the next year.
This one is pretty straightforward – being green, collards represent money. Collards, and other bitter greens, became synonymous with southern cuisine for the same reason as black-eyed peas. Greens are typically braised with stock, onion and some type of pork, often ham hocks. Emerils version is my favorite.
Cornbread is another food eaten for wealth in the New Year. Gosh, us Southerners will do all it takes to ensure money in the New Year! Why? The cornbread’s gold color is meant to represent gold, often with corn kernels mixed in to represent golden nuggets. For the most traditional southern recipe, use very little flour and little to no sugar or honey.
A few years ago, I started to experiment with the traditional Southern ingredients. My first take was a super simple New Years soup. The next year I made an incredible bitter greens and black-eyed pea casserole, using this recipe as a base and topping it with cornmeal dumplings. Last year I got even crazier with my interpretation with a black-eyed pea and quinoa patty, served with beer braised collards and a gluten-free cornbread made with cornmeal and smoky mesquite flour…and a little sprinkle of bacon, because we could always use the extra luck!
I enjoyed it so much I decided to try another spin on it for Recipe Redux. In this version, I worked the cornbread into the patties, which yielded a more delicate, but flavorful result. The greens were cooked in a similar fashion to Hoppin’ John, flavored with a little bacon, red bell pepper and plenty of onion. I hope this meal brings you and your family plenty of luck, health and wealth in 2014!
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ¾ cup spelt flour, whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ cup stone-ground cornmeal
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 slices bacon, sliced
- 1 small sweet onion, finely diced
- ½ cup long-grain brown rice
- 1½ cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 lbs collards, tough stems removed and coarsely chopped
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 14-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Rounded ½ cup crumbs from cornbread (pulse in a food processor or just crumble with your hands)
- ¼ cup finely diced sweet onion
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Pinch of cayenne
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- First, make the cornbread. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the flour in a large bowl. Add baking powder, salt and cornmeal and whisk to combine. Add the milk and eggs and stir. Add the butter and honey and whisk until just combined.
- Warm the oil in a 9in cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add the batter into the skillet and spread evenly. Place in the oven and bake about 18 minutes. Remove and cool.
- Next, start on the collards. Cook the bacon in a large pot on medium heat. When fat is rendered, add onions and cook for 3 minutes until softened. Stir in rice, peppers, and tomatoes then pour in the broth. Bring to a boil, add the collard greens, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes until the rice is tender. Most, but not all of the liquid should be absorbed.
- While the rice is cooking, make the beans. Place the beans in a large bowl and mash, leaving about ¼th of the beans whole. Add the remaining ingredients, except the coconut oil, and mix together using your hands. Form into 4 patties. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. When hot, add patties and press down lightly to flatten. Cook about 4-5 minutes on each side.
- Divide the collards between 4 bowls. Top with black-eyed pea patties and serve with a slice of cornbread.