When the wonderful old Berdou’s was still around in Gretna, one of its lunch specials was field peas and rice. Mr. Berdou told me he didn’t sell many orders of it. “But I like them, so we cook them almost every week.” I’d never given the things a second thought before, but these moved me to add them to my regular bean rotation at home.
Field peas are a lot like crowder peas, but smaller. They’re a light brown, bigger than lentils but shaped like red beans. They have a unique savory flavor that I find makes a great side dish. This version steers away from the bacon-fat, salt-pork kind of thing we do for red beans. If anything, it’s inspired be the way they cook beans in Italy. So I suggest serving them with orzo pasta instead of rice.
These are also wonderful as a side dish with any seafood you can think of.
- 1 lb. field peas, sorts, rinsed, and soaked for a few hours or overnight
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium bulb fennel, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- Pinch nutmeg
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 tsp. thyme
- 1 tsp. summer savory
- 1 1/2 Tbs. salt
- 1 Tbs. Crystal hot sauce
- 6 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
- 8 oz. orzo pasta, cooked and drained
2. Drain the field peas and add them to the pot. Add six cups of fresh cold water, the bay leaf, nutmeg, thyme, savory, salt and hot sauce. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook for one hour.
3. Check after an hour to see that the peas have not absorbed all the water. If so, add more. The pot should still have a soup texture.
4. Cook another 30-45 minutes, until beans are completely soft but not falling apart. Remove the bay leaf. Taste for seasoning and adjust. There should still be enough liquid so that the beans have a stew-like But not runny) texture.
5. Add the cooked, drained orzo to the pot and gently stir into the beans. Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley.
Serves about six.