Happy New Year! I hope that 2014 is kind to you.
Yesterday, I prepared for the New Year by preparing a traditional meal of:
- Buttermilk fried chicken
- Collard greens with rutabaga
- Black-eyed peas (“Hoppin’ John’s)
- Salted, sliced tomatoes
I am a Californian girl with Southern roots, and this reflects in my cooking. I like the flavors of Southern cuisine, but I also like a certain… crispness (denoting intact nutritional value) in my food. That, and I am painfully conscious of the ecological issues that arise when I dispose of frying oil. So, what I do is cook my vegetables “just so” until they have the flavor I want without being a mushy mess, and I fry my chicken until the outside is crispy and put it in the oven to cook even more.
This particular meal is laden with significance. Hoppin’ John and greens represent abundance and sustenance. The peas represent coins, whereas the greens represent paper currency. Supposedly, all who partake in the meal will be blessed in the New Year. If nothing else, however, they entered the New Year with full bellies and nourished bodies- health and happiness indeed.
So, the process of making this meal begins about 2 days before the actual meal. The first thing I do is get the ingredients:
Buttermilk Fried Chicken:
Prep time: 2 days (to tenderize the chicken in the buttermilk brine) + 2 hours (to dredge the chicken and allow it to rest before frying)
Cooking time: About 6-7 minutes per batch + 45 minutes in an oven set at 300 degrees
- 12 chicken drumsticks
- 1 quart (about 0.95 liters) of buttermilk
- Half a yellow onion, chopped
- 1/4 Teaspoon round black pepper
- Salt, to taste (I used about 1 tablespoon- double this if you are using Kosher Salt)
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 Teaspoon celery seed
- 1 Liter of frying oil
- 4 Cups flour (for dredging)
- To make the buttermilk brine: measure out 1 quart of buttermilk into a container or gallon freezer bag (suitable for brining meat). Add the spices (ancho prpper, paprika, celery seeds, salt, pepper), chopped onion, and garlic cloves. Add the chicken drumsticks, ensuring that they are covered by the brine.
- After the chicken has brined, take it out of the buttermilk brine and dredge it in flour. It should be coated. Now dredge it again, dipping it in the buttermilk brine and rolling it in flour.
- Let it sit for an hour. This allows the outside coat to dry and ensures that the meat is closer to room temperature, so that it fries more evenly.
- Pour the frying oil into a pan (preferably a taller pot that allows for 1.5″ of hot oil). Once the oil reaches about 320 degrees, add the drumsticks.
- Each batch should take about 6-7 minutes to brown up.
- As I said earlier, I prefer to fry it enough to get a crisp exterior and place them in the oven at 300 to ensure that they are thoroughly cooked.
Collard Greens with Rutabaga:
Prep time: 1 hour (to wash and cut the collards, chop the veggies and prepare the rutabage + broth for the greens)
Cook time: 1 hour
- 1-2 bunches, collard greens (1 will feed about 4 people)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed to release the oils
- Salt pork or smoked turkey neck
- Rutabaga, peeled and cut into cubes
- Salt and pepper, to taste (the broth will be salty from the smoked meat)
- 6 Cups water
- Peel and cue the rutabaga.
- Sautee the chopped onion, garlic cloves and salted meat in a pot
- Add the rutabaga, stirring until it has a light coating of oil
- Add water until the rutabaga and the meat are covered with water. Let them simmer for an hour, until the rutabaga can be easily punctured with a fork.
- Wash and cut the collards
- In another pot, sautee chopped onion, adding collard greens by the handful until they cook down.
- Pour the broth from the rutabaga and the salted meat over the greens and cover. As the greens cook, they should turn a nice bright green. Add the rutabaga then.
Prep time: 24 hours (to allow the beans to soak) + 1 hour to chop the vegetables and make the broth for the beans
Cook time: 2 hours
- 1 lb dried Black-eyed peas
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 stalks of celery
- 1 red bell pepper
- Salt pork or smoked turkey neck
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- A pinch, crushed ancho pepper
- A pinch, paprika
- 1.5 Cup of rice (brown rice will absorb more liquid and take longer to cook)
- Soak the black-eyed peas for 8-24 hours
- Make a broth with the salted/smoked meat of your choice- about 4-6 cups.
- Sautee chopped onions, celery and bell pepper, adding the beans.
- Pour the broth and salted meat atop the beans. The liquid should cover the beans.
- Season to taste with paprika, ancho pepper, salt, and ground Black pepper.
- When the broth becomes starchier and the beans cook, add 1.5 cups of rice (ensure that there is enough liquid, of course).
- Stir occasionally, making sure that the beans don’t stick or become too thick.
Cornbread (use any recipe, but you’ll need the following ingredients:
Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: ~35 minutes
- Sugar, honey or molasses
- Baking soda
- Butter or lard
- Milk or buttermilk (you could use the leftover buttermilk from the fried chicken)
The final meal looked like:
My partner praised me and complimented me as he reached for a second drumstick. Needless to say, I’m very proud of how the meal turned out.
Happy New Year!