I’m not really much of a superstitious person. Maybe it’s my philosophy background, but I tend to think that things happen randomly and we impose meaning on them.
That said, there are still a few traditions that I do without fail.
One of those is eating black-eyed peas on New Years. It’s something my mom always served to me and she still calls me every year to make sure that I eat some.
I figure that in this case it doesn’t really hurt. Black-eyed peas aren’t a strange food. They aren’t impossible to find or taste gross. They are cheap and delicious. So I figure why not?!
Normally, I just make some sort of hearty soup like this one, but this year I decided to class it up a bit. As it happens, black-eyed peas and bacon make for a really good eggs benedict.
As a reader recently said on my Facebook page: “I don’t believe in good luck. But I do believe in good food!”
1) Cook black-eyed peas according to package. Canned would work fine for this recipe also.
2) Dice bacon and scallions. For kale, slice out the center rib from one large leaf and mince the kale finely.
3) In a skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Cook bacon until it's well-browned and most of the fat has rendered out.
4) Add scallions and kale and continue to cook for another few minutes until they soften.
5) Stir in black-eyed peas and season mixture with salt and pepper. Keep on low heat until needed and stir occasionally.
6) For hollandaise, whisk yolk together with water, lemon, and a pinch of cayenne and salt.
7) Melt butter. Clarified butter will work best, but I've used just normal melted unsalted butter with success before.
8) Over a double boiler, heat yolk mixture and whisk until it's steaming and frothy.
9) Slowly start to drizzle in butter and whisk. Add the butter slowly until the sauce comes together. You may not need the entire cup of butter to get a smooth sauce. Once the sauce is formed, set it aside until needed. Don't keep it over the heat. If it gets too thick, whisk in a teaspoon of hot water to thin it out.
10) To poach eggs, add 1/2 cup of vinegar to a large pot of water (2 quarts). Bring the water to a simmer (not a boil) and swirl the water with a spoon.
11) Crack eggs into a bowl and then carefully drop them into the swirling water. Cook for about 2 minutes.
12) Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and let them drain briefly on a paper towel.
13) Toast muffins and spoon black-eyed pea mixture over muffins. Top with eggs and sauce. Optionally, drizzle on some sriracha or hot sauce. Serve immediately.
I used dried black-eyed peas for this post, but there’s really no reason for it. Feel free to use canned.
If you do use dried, be sure to sort them before cooking them. Of all the dried legumes I’ve ever used, black-eyed peas have more pebbles than any other in my experience. No idea why this is, but I always find a pebble or two in my black-eyed peas.
Chipping a tooth on a rock is not a great way to start the new year!
Besides the black-eyed peas, there’s just a few things that I wanted to put in my filling. All of these are pretty standard flavors that go really well with black-eyed peas. Traditionally, a ham hock is used to cook them, but I just sliced up a few pieces of bacon.
Instead of collard greens which need need to cook for awhile, I just minced up a kale leaf which will saute much better.
To start the filling, add a drizzle of oil to a skillet and add all your bacon over medium heat.
Cook it until most of the fat has rendered out and the bacon starts to crispy up, about 8 minutes. Then add the sliced scallions and kale.
Cook this mixture until the veggies start to soften, just another minute or two. This will already smell great.
Then just toss in your cooked black-eyed peas and season with some salt and pepper.
Keep this mixture warm over low heat until you need it later. Give it a stir occasionally just to make sure it isn’t burning.
I really do think that when it comes to classic sauces, hollandaise is the easiest to make. I find it to be a very forgiving sauce which is why I’m always baffled at how restaurants screw it up.
It’s really just two things: Eggs and butter.
If you are making a really professional hollandaise sauce, you want to make sure and clarify your butter before using it in the sauce. This basically just insures that you don’t get any butter solids in the sauce and that you have consistent results.
But you know what? Clarifying butter is kind of a pain in the buttocks. I’ve just melted butter in the microwave before and used it with okay (but not perfect) results. Just try not to add the butter solids (which will be at the bottom of your bowl) to the sauce if you can help it.
Also, if your sauce doesn’t work because you took this shortcut… don’t blame me!
To make the sauce, whisk together a yolk with a teaspoon of water and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Add in a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper (optional).
Set this bowl over a pan of simmering water (double boiler) and continue to whisk it until the yolk mixture turns frothy. It should be steaming slightly and will start foaming like crazy. This is your cue to start adding the butter.
Just like any time you are making an emulsified sauce, start by drizzling in a small amount of the butter. Whisk whisk whisk. Drizzle in a bit more. Whisk more.
If your sauce starts to curdle at all, it might be getting to hot, so take it off the heat and whisk like crazy.
At the end of the day you should be able to whisk in almost an entire cup of melted butter into the yolk. This was my finished sauce and it was darn near perfect in my opinion!
Once your sauce is made, don’t put it back on the heat. It’ll break down completely if it gets too hot. It’ll be fine at room temperature for 5 minutes while you finish the rest of meal. If it comes time to use it and it’s really thick or congealed, just whisk in a teaspoon of hot water and it’ll loosen up immediately.
Poaching the Eggs
They make fancy contraptions to poach eggs, but I think those things tend to overcook the eggs. If you don’t feel like poaching the eggs, you can also just fry a few eggs over-easy and use those.
To poach eggs the right way though, just bring a large pot of water to a simmer and then add in a good amount of plain distilled vinegar.
Crack your eggs one at a time into a separate bowl. Give the water a swirl with a spoon and gently slide the egg into the water. It should immediately clench up and start cooking in a nice little package.
Depending on the size of your pot, you should be able to do 2-4 eggs at a time in one pot.
Two minutes of cooking time will leave you with perfect poached eggs.
When they are done, scoop them out of the water with a slotted spoon and let them drain on a paper towel.
Assembling the Benedicts
All the hard work is done. Now for the fun part.
Toast a few English muffins and pile on the black-eyed pea mixture.
Top each half with an egg and a good dollop of sauce.
You could stop right here if you wanted.
I like a bit of hot sauce with my black-eyed peas though so I drizzled on some Sriracha. It totally made the dish in my opinion.
When you cut into one of these benedicts, it’s a thing of beauty.
Like I said, I’m not sure that I believe in good luck.
But I’ll use any reason I can find though for an excuse to make these delicious things.