Tex Mex Black Eyed Pea Casserole

So what’s the story with Black Eyed Peas supposedly bringing good luck to all who eat them in the New Year anyways? I guess Black Eyed Peas are a Southern thing. This southern California girl had never actually (knowingly) tasted a black eyed pea before dinner last night, and I quite liked them. I put them in a Tex Mex Black Eyed Pea Casserole.

It’s one last hurrah of a comfort-food dish before the New Year begins. And it’s family- friendly too.

There they are in all their glory. Black Eyed Peas. They’re purdy little things, aren’t they? I suppose you could speed things up and use canned black eyed peas for this dish, but then it probably wouldn’t be quite as good now, would it?

I read a lot about black eyed peas and how to prepare them before I attempted this dish. Some folks soaked them overnight. Some slow cooked them. I went with the crowd that said that soaking wasn’t needed. I rinsed them, and then I boiled them for about 30 minutes. That gave me a tender black eyed pea, which is what I was hoping for in this recipe. Easy “pea”sy.

I added bacon to this recipe. It’s totally optional, but it totally makes this recipe better. In fact, it makes all recipes better and I wish I had added more. But I understand if you’re vegetarian and you’d like to leave it out. No wait, I don’t really understand that… because how could *anyone* actually survive without bacon?? (but I respect your vegetarian decision in any case ;) )

This is the 3rd thing you’re going to do: prep the rice. In fact, you’re doing all three of these things at once. The peas are boiling, the bacon is in the oven and the rice is simmering. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not. It’s all going at the same time. Onions and garlic are sautéed in a little olive oil, then add the rice, then broth, then simmer until the rice has (almost) absorbed the liquid.

Then dump the almost-done rice in a bowl.  Add tender- cooked black-eyed peas, a can of ro-tel tomatoes, fresh spinach, BACON and cheese.  Mix it up.

Spread it into a casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes.  Add some more cheese on top and bake for 10 more minutes.

Ta Dah!

There’s good ‘ol down-home comfort right there.

Add a little sour cream, cilantro and sliced avocado, and your dish is complete!

Oh, and about those black-eyed peas… tradition says that the peas– since they swell when they cook– are said to bring prosperity to those who eat them on New Year’s Day.  I guess it’s worth a shot, right?

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Tex Mex Black Eyed Pea Casserole

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 30 min

Cook Time: 1 hr

May these black eyed peas bring you prosperity in the New Year!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups dried black eyed peas, rinsed
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (or more!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups rice (your preference)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
One 10-ounce can Ro-tel (tomatoes + green chilies)
3 cups fresh spinach, cut into strips
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
chopped cilantro, sour cream and sliced avocado (for serving)

Directions:

1. Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add the dried peas and boil for 30 minutes, or until tender (as tender as a canned black bean would be). You don't want them to have much of a bite to them, but you don't want them mushy either. Drain the beans when you've got them where you want them.

2. In a deep medium skillet, heat the olive oil at medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, then rice, broth, cumin, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for about 20 minutes (just until the rice has *almost* absorbed all of the liquid). Time will vary depending on the type of rice you choose to use (20 minutes for white rice, but longer for brown, etc).

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Scrape the rice into a large bowl. Add peas, tomatoes, spinach, 1 cup of the cheese and bacon. Stir it all together and then scoop it into a 9x12-inch (or similarly sized) casserole dish. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake for an additional 10 minutes, just until cheese is melted.

4. Serve in bowls topped with sour cream, fresh cilantro and sliced avocado.

Tips:

*If you are preparing this recipe as gluten free, just be sure to use brands of bacon and broth that are known to be GF.
*Quick and Easy tips: You can certainly try substituting canned black eyed peas for the boiled dried beans in this recipe, and you can purchase the already cooked bacon too.
*If you'd like to oven-fry your bacon-- it's so easy! Just set a rack in a foil-lined rimmed pan. Place your bacon strips on the rack. Place the bacon in a preheated 400 degree F. oven for 20 minutes, or until crisp (time will vary based on thickness of the bacon). Dab the bacon with paper towels to soak up any excess grease, and it's easy clean up too!

Source: RecipeGirl.com (adapted loosely from Tex Mex Chicken & Rice Casserole and Food Network