My love of field peas has been declared far and wide. I generally grab bags from the farmers market, put some up in the freezer for a mid-winter summer meal. Then I throw some in my field pea pot with whatever pork product I have around. Salt pork, bacon, country ham, fatback. My summer Saturday dinner. But not so with lady peas.
Lady peas are delicate and dainty – I am assuming that’s where the name comes from, and too much salty, strong pork overwhelms them. So I like to treat them with a gentler hand. Bright and sharp celery, a light addition of garlic and classic onion and bay flavor the peas, and butter enriches the whole dish, adding a lovely glaze. This version is simmered uncovered so the liquid reduces to burnish the peas. There is just enough potlikker to soak up with some tangy buttermilk hoecakes.
Butter Braised Lady Peas
Serves 4 – 6
1 pound of fresh lady peas
2 cloves garlic
1 stalk celery, cut into chunks, with the leaves
1 small onion
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) of butter
1. Place the lady peas in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave to settle for 30 minutes, then scoop off any floaters. Pick out any bruised peas, then lift the peas out of the water into a saucepan using your hands. Don’t pour through a strainer, the dirt only gets on the peas again.
2. Nestle the garlic, celery onion and bay leaves in the peas and add fresh water to just barely cover. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam or scum that rises. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the butter. Simmer the peas, uncovered, for 1 hour until soft and tender but still holding their shape. Remove the celery, onion, garlic and bay leaves and add salt to taste. Serve warm.
Buttermilk Hoe Cakes
Makes about 8 hoecakes
1/2 cup soft wheat flour, like White Lily
1/2 cup stone ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons melted butter
Oil for frying
1. Stir the flour, cornmeal salt and baking powder together with a fork. Measure the buttermilk and water together, then crack in the egg and stir in the melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until thoroughly mixed. The batter should be loose but thick. Add a little more buttermilk if needed.
2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a deep skillet (you can add a little butter or bacon grease if you’d like). Drop about 3 tablespoons of batter for each hoecake into the oil. Cook about 3 minutes per side, then flip and cook the other side until brown and cooked through.
3. Remove the hoecakes to paper towels to drain.