I found myself in Kansas City a few weekends ago for a yoga anatomy workshop, where I learned all about abducting and adducting and rotator cuffs and polyarticular muscles and dorsal flexion and synergy all that neat stuff that makes me sound really articulate and smart… and stuff. I also found myself completely underdressed, arriving in sub-freezing temps with merely a hoodie and Chacos. I also found myself making a bonehead move by leaving my iPod playing in the car all night, only to find a dead battery the next morning and no charger. I also found myself eating nothing but veggie sandwiches at Subway all weekend, except for the one delicious meal I ate at Bestie Bev’s. Aaah, finally, Laura. Something relevant.
A few weeks prior to my Kansas City jaunt, I had made a yummy pot of black eyed peas and sausage at home, which I raved about on the Flyer Foodie Facebook page. My pot o’ beans was inspired by a Food & Wine recipe I came across around the first of the year (Food & Wine: Seriously, this is my second shameless plea. I will be your peon and make your Starbucks runs. Hire my ass.) In this particular article, the cheeky Gail Simmons was taking Top Chef contestants’ biggest flops and reinventing their failed recipes into stellar, flawless successes of her own (an approach I found a little self-indulgent, but whatever – Gail is just so doggone charming.) Gail took a Season Four pigeon pea disaster and turned it into a wonderfully creamy black eyed pea stew with juicy sausages and spicy jalapenos. Oh to the yeah.
So fast forward a few weeks. The night before my Kansas City trip, I got a text from Bestie Bev telling me that we’re having her version of my pot o’ beans for dinner on Saturday night. Delish! Little did I know that not only would she make a divine batch of peas and sausage, but that I would be THIS CLOSE to dipping my toes in my bowl due to my freezing phalanges (there’s another fancy word!) While she cooked, I followed her around the kitchen with my clumsy tripod, taking pictures, swirling my glass of wine, repeatedly getting in her way, and generally being a nuisance instead of lending a helping hand.
Bev followed my recipe almost to a tee – without even looking. The original recipe from Food & Wine called for dry black-eyed peas, which you have to soak overnight, then cook for over an hour until they’re nice and tender. Sorry, but we ladies have got other things to do besides watch a pot boil. Instead, we both used canned black eyed peas to save ourselves the time and effort. In my recipe, I used hot Italian sausages, but Bestie Bev – even more of a health nut than I am – used her favorite turkey sausages. You can really use whatever sausage you like; anything will work just fine. One final tweak: The original recipe used chicken stock to create its brothy goodness, but I swear by using beer, instead. Sacrifice a couple of your Miller Lites and your peas will take on a whole new flavor.
As we settled in on the couch with our blankets, our pillows, our big bowls of delicious, brothy stew and our eyes glued to 48 Hours Mystery, my feet began to thaw, my belly began to warm, my taste buds began to sing and I began to seriously doubt that that guy’s wife just “accidentally drowned” on their Caribbean diving vacation. This is a wonderful recipe for these last few chilly nights of the season, and perfect for feeding a crowd. Serve it with crusty bread or crumbly cornbread for a real treat. Enjoy!
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Black Eyed Peas and Sausage
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
5 Brats or hot Italian sausage links (just over a pound), pricked with a fork
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 can (14 oz.) whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cans (14 oz.) black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
2 (12 oz.) pale beers
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil until it’s shimmering. Add the sausages and cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, until they’re browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sausages to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
Add the onion, celery, bell pepper and jalapenos to the pot and cook over medium heat until just beginning to brown at the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and smoked paprika, and cook for a minute longer. Add the tomatoes and their juices, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the black eyed peas and beers, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring the pot to a boil. Lower the heat to low, cover the pot half-way and simmer for about half an hour.
Cut the sausages into 1/2″ slices and add them to the pot, along with any juices from the plate. Add the chopped cilantro, adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, and allow the stew to simmer for 10 minutes longer. Ladle into big bowls and garnish with a little more cilantro. Serve with cornbread or good, crusty bread.
* If the above slideshow doesn’t load, you can view all the photos from this recipe on Flickr.
Laura is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, see her Flyer Foodie author page. For more cooking, recipes, and other food-related inspiration, visit Flyer Foodie on Facebook.