Thursday, May 3, 2012

Southern Style Lady Cream Peas

Lady cream peas, seasoned with smoked meat, onion, garlic and fresh herbs, served with a side of cornbread and pictured here, with broiled chicken.

Southern Style Lady Cream Peas

Even though white beans and red beans and rice are common weekly features here in the Deep South, I love beans of all kinds, and all I need is a good rainy day like we had yesterday to have an excuse to make some, no matter the temperature outside. Most often served as a side dish to other foods, southern peas are another love of mine, and I absolutely adore Lady Cream Peas for their buttery flavor and super creamy texture.

Known as field peas, cowpeas, and simply southern peas - though calling them peas is a bit of a misnomer, since they are all actually beans - they are identifiable by their small size and by the seed-eye you'll find on them, that tiny little familiar spot most of us immediately recognize from black-eyed peas the most.


It won't be long and you'll be able to find fresh Lady Cream Peas on the roadside in many parts of the Deep South, though I can never manage to chase any down around here. I don't even know if anybody even grows them here locally to be honest. Course, it would probably help if I hit the farmers market a little early or travel outside of the "city," because those are the places you are most likely to find them. Heck, it's hard to even find them dried at the stores here, so I just order mine online direct from Camellia. Though fresh is best, dried will certainly do, and it's worth the cost of shipping to me to be able to enjoy them right from my pantry.

Photo: Camellia Brand Beans
Lady Cream Peas are just another variety of the southern pea - in the same family as those more familiar, black-eyed peas, crowder peas, field peas and purple hull peas, to name a few... though there are literally dozens of varieties of them in each of those categories. Some varieties such as Mississippi Cream, White Acre and Floricream, fall into a cream group called conch, while Lady Cream, Royal Cream, and Zipper Cream are found in a group called cream crowders.

Most southern peas and beans are cooked about the same way - some kind of smoked meat, often bacon, andouille sausage, tasso, ham or ham hock - is used for the base seasoning. To that we add some onion and garlic, sometimes a hot pepper, and from there it's just a few minor variations in the herbs and seasonings used depending on the variety of pea and your own personal preferences. In fact, if you don't have access to Lady Cream Peas you could certainly use this recipe for other southern peas.

Here's how I make my Lady Cream Peas.

Rinse and sort the peas and add to a Dutch oven or soup pot.


I used tasso which is a highly seasoned cured pork that has been rubbed with a variety of spices and seasonings prior to smoking - including plenty of cayenne pepper. It is firm in texture like ham, but adds a huge kick of rich and spicy flavor to dishes. Because tasso is so highly seasoned, I'm using it first with just the beans and water before adding the other seasonings. This will infuse the flavor into the water and beans though you can certainly add everything all together as well. You may use pretty much any smoked meat you favor - bacon, ham, ham hocks, smoked sausage and smoked turkey even.


Chop up the tasso or smoked ham, and add it, along with the water to the peas.


Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.


Now it's ready for some additional seasoning!


In a separate skillet, sauté the onion in the butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Since I used a spicy tasso to season my broth, I skipped the hot peppers, however, if you use a milder smoked meat, jalapeno is a great addition to kick up the flavor a bit. Clean the jalapeno of the seeds and ribs, dice, then add in here with the onion to saute it.


Transfer the skillet contents, including all of the drippings, to the pot. Add all of the seasonings, except for the salt and pepper.


Continue cooking, uncovered, for another 1/2 hour, or longer, until peas are tender and liquid has reduced to consistency desired. Taste and add salt and pepper only as needed.



Recipe: Southern Style Lady Cream Peas

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 1 hour 30 min | Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 pound dried lady cream peas, soaked overnight
  • 1/4 pound of pork tasso or smoked ham, chopped
  • 10 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Instructions

Soak beans overnight to speed the cooking process. Rinse and sort the peas and add to a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the tasso or smoked ham and the water; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.

In a separate skillet, sauté the onion in the butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Transfer the skillet contents, including all of the drippings, to the pot. Add all of the seasonings, except for the salt and pepper, and continue cooking uncovered for another 1/2 hour, or longer, until peas are tender and liquid has reduced to consistency desired.

Taste, season with salt and pepper only as needed. Serve with a side of cornbread as a main dish meal over rice, or as a side dish with your favorite meat.

Source: http://deepsouthdish.com

Cook's Notes: Use this recipe with other southern peas, such as black-eyed peas, crowder peas, field peas, butter peas and purple hull peas. Jalapeno or other hot peppers are a nice seasoning addition for many southern peas. Since I used spicy tasso this time, I left the peppers out, but feel free to add some in if you use a milder smoked meat. Can substitute dried herbs for the fresh - reduce to about 1/4 heaping teaspoon. I used Camellia brand dried lady cream peas, but fresh peas can be used also. Total cooking time will be reduced to 45 minutes to an hour or so. If you love Lady Cream Peas but you're having trouble finding them in your area, you can buy them in dried form direct from Camellia online.

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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on May 3, 2012
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