notes from maggie's farm
I lived in Baton Rouge for 18 years and, with few exceptions, I loved it. I loved the balmy evenings, I loved the barbecues, the fish frys, the crawfish boils, the cochon de laits. I loved Abita beer, drive-thru daiquiri stands, the probable hundreds of nights spent with friends at The Caterie Bar and Grill, which is, sadly, no longer, breakfast at Louie's, lunch at The Chimes, dinner anywhere, every weekend a festival, fascinating politics, seeing the Governor at the book store, having a boatload of great and typically gregarious friends of all ages, races, genders, walks of life. I loved that my now big girls were little girls with a spirit of adventure to match their mother's, and adventures did we ever have! I loved every minute of my six years at Louisiana State University. Loved the explosion of azaleas in the spring, magnolia trees, irises in the wet ditches, that time we found a baby alligator (!) in the front drainage pipe under the driveway. Tailgating on Saturdays during the fall, boating on the river (any river) in summer, the three days of spring and winter, both usually sometime in February, eating crawfish on the levy, and regional dishes too many to name.
It isn't exactly true what they say--you actually can go home again. It's just that it's never quite the same, and neither are you. So while I wasn't fond of the massive traffic jams and bigger, better, retail outlets, strip malls, and chain store influx that has come as a result of the population explosion caused by Hurricane Katrina, Baton Rouge probably wasn't all that impressed by the extra ten pounds, or few new wrinkles I was toting, either. Yet the best of both of us, that which makes us unique, and hopefully charming, is still alive and kicking and raring to go.
Of course I miss all the usual suspects to which I've so often alluded; gumbo, softshell crabs, jambalaya, shrimp this, shrimp that, and shrimp the other, but it's around this time of year that I always start craving fresh peas. Not garden peas, or english peas, or green peas, whichever name you use for those early peas. It's southern peas for which I have a yen, specifically, butter peas.
|Some of the booty included, from top left, clockwise, Creole tomatoes, a muscadine grapevine, LSU purple fig tree, louisiana strawberries, satsuma oranges, John Folse's cheese, Acadiana Honey, Steen's Molasses, 3 brews of Abita Beer, Olive Salad, Tasso, and center stage: Butterpeas!|
On my recent road trip through South Louisiana, I stopped at several local markets to stock up on the culinary treasures I either have a hard time finding at home, or can't find altogether. And it was with absolute glee that I stocked up on butter peas. Three pounds fresh, two pounds dry--all they had.
This time of year, you'll begin to see fresh peas in the farmers markets down south, and hopefully in the rest of the world, you'll see them sometime this summer at a market near you. In this recipe, frozen will do, too, and crowder peas, field pies, butter peas and butter beans (which are baby limas), and lima beans can all usually be found in the freezer section of your local grocery. Let the manager know, insistently, that you want them, if they don't, because you'll be quite happy with the results. Fresh, and (almost) frozen peas yield a softer, creamier pea/bean that far surpasses canned, and even dried. And no soaking necessary.
fresh butter peas with andouille
with smoked black pepper, oregano, and tasso
serves 4, for entree
1 lb fresh butterpeas (cream peas, zipper peas, lady peas, crowder peas, field peas, baby limas, or even blackeyed peas can be used as a substitute, as can frozen)
1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced (good quality smoked kielbasa will do in a pinch)
1/2 lb tasso, diced (smoked ham hock or good quality smoked bacon can be used as a substitute)
filtered water to cover beans by two inches. (You may need to add water as peas cook, to maintain a level at least covering peas.)
1T fresh chopped oregano, or 2t dried
smoked black pepper (regular black or white pepper can be substituted, but do try to find this some day...it's really worth the effort) and kosher salt, to taste
chives, to garnish
Learn more about andouille and tasso here.
In a heavy bottomed dutch oven, add sorted peas, andouille, tasso, filtered water, and oregano. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove lid, add pepper and salt, to taste, and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until liquid is reduced to just under the surface of peas/beans, and they are tender to taste. We served ours with cracklins cornbread (recipe to soon follow), green tomato chow chow (oh you've never heard of chow chow? We'll fix that soon, too!), and chives (either on side, to munch on along with soupy spoonfuls, or chopped and strewn over top)
Note: I usually recommend using chicken or vegetable stock when cooking beans, but the full flavor of andouille and tasso not only make the addition of stock unnecessary, it actually competes with the smoky, slight spiciness that these meats lend the dish.....so.....why gild the lily?
More information about selecting, sowing, and serving, southern peas:
Mississippi State University Extension Service: Southern Peas
Eating Local, Eating Green: Keep eye out for local varieties of summer peas, beans
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: Southern Peas
Randy Evans, Brennan's Houston, Southern Peas, Saveur
Guide to Summer-Fresh Field Peas, Southern Living