Recently, thanks to a friend who was paring down her cookbook collection, I came into a copy of Daniel Boulud’s Braise. My bud had bought the book on a whim but soon found that too many recipes included too many pricey or exotic ingredients (quail eggs, lobster mushrooms, etc.) for it to be consistently useful. I took it off her hands, since I have more room for cookbooks and occasionally enjoy a challenge. Also, the pictures were pretty.
Sadly, I didn’t get very far. My friend was on the money; the book is gorgeous, but for the most part, you have to be willing to invest a good chunk of your 401(k)—or what’s left of it—to get a decent dinner. To give you an idea, there’s a chicken dish with 24 ingredients, up to and including galangal, shrimp paste, crème fraîche, kaffir lime leaves, white peppercorns, and green bird’s-eye chile peppers. It sounds delicious on paper, but, whoa.
Happily, there are a few exceptions to the rule. There’s Pork Shoulder with Guinness, Dried Cherries, and Sweet Potatoes that was both within my price range and dang tasty, plus Red Cabbage with Apples and Honey, which I’m dying to try. And then there's Southern-Style Black-Eyed Peas with Bacon.
I whipped it up over the weekend, and, whoa, mama, it’s good. Perfectly spicy with a deep (but not overwhelming) bacon flavor, it would probably make a dynamite soup if you wanted to go the immersion-blender route. After a tentative first few bites, my boyfriend and I couldn’t get enough. Sweetest of all, the fat content is stunningly low (around 4 grams per serving), and when regular bacon is substituted for slab bacon, it costs about $3.50 to make, total—a price in stark contrast to the rest of the book.
Two minor notes, should you decide to go ahead with the recipe: First, the braising time may differ greatly, according to your taste. Boulud asks for 1 hour and 15 minutes, but mine went for 1 hour and 35 minutes. Second, I added a little salt and pepper at the end, just for kicks.
Ultimately, though it's a bit extravagant overall for me, I’d go ahead with Braise if you have money and time to search for ingredients. Because if everything is this good, it might be the best investment you make all year.
- 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
- 5 ounces (6 slices) bacon, cut into 3/4-inch squares
- 2 red onions, peeled and sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons Tabasco or other hot sauce
- Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish
The day before you plan to serve this dish, put the peas in a bowl, cover with water by at least 2 inches, and refrigerate. The next day, drain well before using.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 275ºF.
Place the bacon in a small cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook until it renders its fat, about 6 or 7 minutes.
Add the onions, garlic, oregano (or Italian seasoning), and black pepper and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes. Add the drained peas, bay leaves, salt, and 6 cups water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to the oven.
Braise until the peas are tender, at least 1 hour 15 minutes. Stir in the Tabasco, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve.