An early taste of good fortune with Pork & Black-eyed Pea Chili

We’ve chronicled our betwixt-and-betweenness with that Southern New Year’s staple, black-eyed peas, here and here. But once again we faced the turn of another calendar year (way to let everyone down, Mayan Apocalypse!) and the tradition of turning the boring little buggers into something edible.

In the Southern U.S., eating black-eyed peas on January 1 is thought to bring prosperity in the coming year.

In the Southern U.S., eating black-eyed peas
on January 1st is thought to bring prosperity in the coming year.

Michelle was determined to do even better than last year’s outing, and stumbled across a Michael Symon recipe for black-eyed pea chili that sounded good to her. It sounded good to Steve as well, though it pained him to see that the dish called for pork cheeks, a delicacy unavailable to Gourmandistan until our personal pig arrives in a few months (and then only if Steve’s knife skills are up to the task of separating them from the pig’s head). We figured with a few alterations it would make a nice dish for a visit from our friends Paul and Amy, who were in town for the holidays and had agreed to brave the trip to Gourmandistan for an evening’s entertainment.

The day before the dinner, Steve took a shopping trip and brought back dried peas, chilis and a big hunk of pork shoulder as the weather reports began to speak of snow in our area. We scoffed at the idea, though Steve took the precaution of spreading some ice melter down our long drive. We made the chili as the sky became grey, finishing our preparations in the evening as big flakes began to fall. Reports said most of the stuff would skew north of our location, so we went to bed confident our guests would be able to get to our location the next evening.

Dawn broke on one of the loveliest snowfalls we’ve seen in years—two inches of brilliant white blanketing fields, tree branches and fence lines while accumulating little on the roads.


To confirm that his harsh melting medicine had worked, Steve hopped in our old truck and headed down for an early morning driveway check, only to be stopped by three rather large trees which had become overladen and fallen over our drive. Steve first attempted to clear the lumber himself with a chainsaw brought over by a friend, but became thoroughly exhausted when only about halfway through. Admitting defeat he called in the yard guys, who made short work of the remains and allowed us to reassure Paul and Amy they could actually make it for dinner.

We had a lovely time, and the chili was a big hit.

Pork & black-eyed pea chili

We enjoyed seeing our friends, who are both very accomplished (though, despite Paul’s hatred of the Internet, he has the bigger public presence there), interesting and quite possibly the coolest parents we know. The peas and the presence of old friends reminded us of our good fortune this past year, including the many new friends we’ve been lucky enough to make via this virtual fiefdom. Gourmandistan allows us to stay in touch with old friends who have moved to distant lands (hello, Mark & Kelly!)—but both over the Web and in real life (hello, Roger and Daisy!), this blog has also brought us many wonderful new friends the world over.

Steve learned something long ago from his mother’s Girl Scout Leader Guide Book. (Though he was never a Scout of either the Girl or Boy variety, Steve can recite the rules of both even to this day.) A suggested campfire song advised: “Make new friends, but keep the old/one is silver, the other gold.” Hopefully we will make gains on both sides of the ledger in the coming months. But at the moment, with black-eyed peas or not, Gourmandistan wishes both our old and new friends the best of fortune and bountiful happiness in the new year.

Pork & black-eyed pea chili


(adapted from Michael Symon on foodandwine.com)

  • 3 lbs. cleaned and trimmed pork shoulder, in 1” cubes
  • 1 TB ground coriander
  • 1 TB smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • 4 slices smoked bacon, cut into 1/2” dice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 12-oz. bottle amber ale or porter
  • 3-4 c. chicken stock
  • 2 14-1/2-oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 canned chipotles in adobo, minced
  • 1-1/4 lbs. dried black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
  • Shredded smoked cheddar cheese, chopped onions and chopped cilantro, for serving

In a large bowl, toss the meat with the coriander, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat.  Add half the pork and sear, turning as needed, until browned.  Remove pork to a plate with a slotted spoon or spatula.  Add more oil if needed and brown remaining pork, then remove.

Add bacon and cook over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally until crisp.  Add onion, garlic, jalapeños and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.

Return pork to the pot along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate.  Add ale, 3 cups stock, tomatoes, chipotles and black-eyed peas. Cover and cook over low heat until meat and beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding more stock if needed.  Taste for seasoning.

Garnish chili servings with cheese, chopped onions and chopped cilantro.


  1. Eha

    Until I clicked on my computer this morning I had no idea that black-eyed peas brought luck when served around New Year? Hoppin’ John is the name most touted!! Well, this seems to have most of the basic ingredients + quite a kick, so it gets my vote and first-off-the-block in the kitchen 🙂 ! Thank you and may 2013 bring all you wish for yourselves . . .

  2. If it’s a Michael Symon dish, there’s sure to be pork in it. Using pork shoulder in chili sounds delicious, especially with that spice mix. I don’t know if eating this well bring good luck but it sure will keep you warm on a wintry day.
    Have a very happy and healthy New Year!

  3. Ha! Well, that must be the difference between a Southern snowstorm and a Northern one–we put the ice melt on AFTER the snow arrives. This looks like a great chili. The amber ale or porter is a particularly tempting addition. Good luck in 2013–I count having wandered into Gourmandistan as one of my major blog discoveries of the past year. Ken

  4. We just had pig cheeks in our New Year morning breakfast congee! You’re getting a PIG!? How cool. Dead, I assume. (I’m about on the verge to eat our pig, as he continues to destroy our back yard.) Happy New Year!

    • Steve

      Mmmm…pig cheek congee sounds delicious. While I’m tempted to take on some live ones, the pig we anticipate will be safely dead.

    • I know you’ve got Southern U.S. in your DNA. Plus, I think the cowpeas came from West Africa originally. So it’s a perfect match for you! (And glad to see that you and yours are safe after the sad New Year’s Eve events in Abidjan.)

  5. What a wonderful post from Gourmandistan! I am so pleased and happy to have come across your virtual fiefdom too 🙂 Had so much fun seeing you and Steve in NYC! Hope to have more communal eating and drinking in 2013!

    Ps. It was very noble of Steve to intentionally not clear the drive so that the lawn guys could feel useful 😉

  6. A beautiful dish to kick start the new year and brave those cool winters days you have (with a bowl of fiery) hot chilli. Love the combination of ingredients in southern cuisine and it’s a sure winner for the recipe list, when winter hits here later in the year!

  7. what a great way to kick off january, a hearty stew with a fiery kick of chilli and yummy slow-cooked pork! I wish I knew about the black-eyed pea propsperity link earlier; would have made sure I got some into my new year’s meal hee hee! happy new year!

  8. Paul

    Our children would say “LOL” to the “coolest parents” claim, but they would have LOVED new year’s chili in Gourmandistan as much as we did.

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