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Southern Comfort on a Wintry Day


Y’all, it’s cold outside and I’m craving some southern comfort to warm me up on this chilly winter day. For comfort, I crave a classic black-eyed pea soup with southern style cornbread.


I love southern-style foods, but most of the time, I can’t order them out. Southern food is often made with gluten, specifically flour. Like most of my food cravings, I figure out my gluten-free workaround and make it myself. Black-eyed peas are not just for the new year. What I love about black-eyed peas is they have a creamy consistency. They hold themselves well to long, simmering cook times, but they can also melt into your mouth in every bite and purée smoothly, if that’s what you’re planning to do. I skipped the purée with this soup. Collard greens are also an ingredient that I rarely use. Quintessentially southern, this hearty green is a nutritional powerhouse similar to kale. The flavor and texture of the collard greens compliment the black-eyed peas so well. For flavor and a meat addition, I chose bacon. Bacon provides the perfect rich flavor and is also classic southern. And cornbread is one of my every other week staples. Whether paired with chili or drizzled with honey, southern style cornbread is simply comfort.


Normally, I make a modified version of the family meal for Maggie and today is no exception. For Maggie, she will have a soup that consists of bacon, collard greens, and other vegetables in chicken broth. She will have to skip the cornbread. I don’t have a good alternate for that one.


Mama V’s Southern Black-Eyed Peas Soup



Ingredients:


5 strips of bacon, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onion (white or yellow)

2 stalks of celery

2 medium sized carrots

1 green bell pepper

1 tablespoons minced garlic

1 bag of dried black-eyed peas

6 cups of chicken broth

1 bag of cleaned and chopped collard greens

2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning

1 bay leaf


Directions:


1. Quick soak the dried beans by placing them in a big pot. Rinse in cool water, then set to boil. After 1 minute of rapid boil, cover the pot, turn off the burner and set the timer for an hour. Do not move the pot from the burner. The residual heat will take care of the rest;

2. (Time yourself so the beans are ready by step four). In a Dutch oven (or other large heavy-bottomed pot), add 2 tablespoons olive oil and the chopped bacon. Cook until browned. You could drain the fat, but I choose to leave it. I think it enhances the flavor of the final dish;

3. Add the chopped vegetables: onions, celery, carrots, and green bell pepper. After two or three minutes, add the garlic and cook until fragrant;



4. Drain the beans and rinse. Add them to the pot and mix with the vegetables;



5. Add the Cajun seasoning and bay leaf;


6. Add the chicken broth and simmer on low for about an hour;



7. When the beans are softened to a smooth texture, add the collard greens. They’ll look like they’re going to pop out of your pot, but they’ll shrink as they cook;



8. Continue to simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes.


9. You could either serve when the collard greens are wilted into the soup, or you can keep the lid on the pot and push aside until later. I find with bean soups and stews that they taste better the longer they sit in the pot.



My favorite accompaniment to a delicious southern style black-eyed pea soup with bacon and collard greens is a nice hearty piece of cornbread. For best results, nothing beats a cast iron pan. You could use a cake pan or muffin tin, but the results won’t be the same. Cast iron is the way to go.


Mama V’s Cornbread



Ingredients:


2 cups yellow coarse grain cornmeal (gluten free)

1 1/2 cups flour (gluten free)

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 cups milk

3 eggs

1/4 cup melted butter plus 1 tablespoon for the pan


Directions:


1. Turn the oven on to 425 and put the cast-iron pan in the oven while it preheats. The hotter the pan, the crisper the crust;



2. In a medium sized bowl, mix the dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar);



3. In another bowl (I used my standing mixer, but you can certainly mix by hand), combine the wet ingredients (milk, eggs, and melted butter);



4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, fold and combine until it’s mixed. NOTE: Do not over mix! Over mixing, even with gluten-free ingredients, can create a denser cornbread. Instead, mix until combined then stop!


5. Add the tablespoon of butter into the cast-iron pan. It should melt pretty quick. I like to leave it in the oven so the butter browns. I find it enhances the flavor of the cornbread, but you certainly can skip the browning of the butter.



6. Pour the batter into the hot cast-iron pan. If adequately heated, it should sizzle and the smell of butter should waft as your pour.


7. Bake for 23 minutes.


8. Test with a toothpick and remove from the oven. Allow about 15 minutes to cool and then enjoy!



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