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Slow-Cooked Sea Island Red Peas

Red pea gravy with rice grits. The idea is to have a nice balance between lush, silky broth—or “gravy”—and tender whole peas.
difficulty:
yield:

About 4 cups, serving 4 to 6

time:

Overnight to soak the peas and about 1 hour to cook

introduction

These little field peas are packed with flavor and history. The old English rhyme “Pease Porridge Hot” goes to the oldest form of food related to field peas. Sea Island Red Peas themselves go straight to "reezy peezy," a Gullah dish made with fresh, unripe red peas and rice, and on to hoppin’ John, the famous New Year’s dish made with dried red peas and rice.

Cooking Remarks

Though tiny, these sweet, meaty peas will have an improved finished texture with overnight soaking. We’re providing a companion recipe for Smoked Ham and Chicken Stock. It’s the backbone of the dish (boxed chicken broth is not an acceptable substitute in terms of flavor or body). We recommend making the stock and soaking the peas the day before cooking the dish.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan; a wooden spoon; and a blender, food processor, burr mixer, potato masher, or dinner fork.

    • 1
      quart Smoked Ham and Chicken Stock, defatted and ham bits reserved
    • 7
      ounces (1 cup) Anson Mills Sea Island Red Peas, covered with water, soaked overnight in the refrigerator, and then drained
    • ½
      yellow onion, peeled, cut through root end, and layers left intact
    • ½
      carrot, peeled
    • 2
      small inner celery ribs, leaves attached
    • 2
      garlic cloves, peeled
    • 1
      small Turkish bay leaf
    • 1
      teaspoon curry powder
    • ½
      teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
    • Fine sea salt
  1.  

    Bring the stock to a simmer over medium-high heat in heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan. Stir in the soaked and drained peas, the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaf, and curry powder. Return the liquid to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan partially and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender, 1 to 1¼ hours.

  2.  

    Remove and discard the vegetables and bay leaf. Season with the red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Remove ¼ cup or so of peas and broth and puree them in a blender or food processor or with a burr mixer. Return the puree to the pot with the peas. (Alternatively, you can mash the peas directly in the pan with a potato masher or fork.) If the gravy is too thick, thin it with a bit of water. Stir in the reserved ham, if desired. Cook just until heated through. Taste for seasoning and serve hot over Simple Buttered Carolina Gold Rice Grits.