Black eyed peas are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck throughout the year. This was a tradition in my family, but I didn’t like black eyed peas so I would eat just one. Greens and pork are also traditional New Year’s food eaten for good luck. They were not a part of my family’s tradition, but it’s never too late to start. Bacon, ham, and sausage are the only types of pork that I cook.
I thought about cooking some other type of pork for New Year’s, but bacon was such a natural choice with greens, and kept the meal pretty light, which is exactly what I was going for. The plan was to eat this shortly after midnight, so for dinner we had fried chicken tenders with no sides. I was going for easy finger foods that wouldn’t be too filling, but would keep us from going hungry all night waiting for our special meal.
1 pound bacon
1 bunch red chard (or any greens)
3 or 4 large cloves garlic
Black eyed peas
I cooked the black eyed peas from scratch. To do this soak for at least eight hours, drain, rinse, and simmer for a couple of hours until soft. For this dish I did not season my black eyed peas. You could use canned.
Cook the bacon and save the grease. I use a broiler pan and cook mine in the oven at about 400 degrees. You can cook the bacon in the skillet you plan to use for the greens.
Pour the bacon grease in an iron skillet and heat on med-high. Slice garlic and add to grease. Rinse and cut up greens. I just lay them down and chop all the way across in one to two inch sections. Some stem is OK. Put the greens in the skillet. Cut up the bacon into bite sized pieces. I hold the whole bunch of bacon in my hand and cut it up with kitchen scissors. Add bacon to the greens and toss to coat the greens in the grease and garlic. Cover and reduce heat or turn off and let the greens wilt to your desired consistence. I like mine a little on the crisp side. Remove to a large bowl and toss with drained black eyed peas.
Tips and substitutions:
This dish can be served immediately or reheated in the skillet. If you want to reheat it, I recommend putting the black eyed peas in at the last minute so they don’t overwhelm the other flavors. They can be added just before reheating or added cold after the rest is heated. I did not want to cook this late at night during our celebration, so I cooked it ahead of time.
I used all the grease from the bacon. You don’t have to do that if it freaks you out. You can use less grease or you can substitute with butter or olive oil. If you substitute the grease it will drastically change the flavor, though. You might try using a little bacon grease and mostly some other kind of oil to help maintain the flavor.
I used “hardwood smoked” bacon this time and it was very delicious. The flavor was in the grease and influenced the flavor of the entire dish. I did not realize I had picked up flavored bacon until I smelled it cooking and looked at the box again. It was the brand I normally buy, and I hadn’t noticed (I was in a hurry at the store). The ingredients for the flavoring are pretty questionable, but it is so yummy that I am going to have to search for some with natural flavorings.