Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Good Luck in One Pot!

Just after the kale has been stirred into the chili.

Traditions.  Most families have them.  Our family most certainly has a few.  Growing up in a family of mostly German heritage, with some Welsh thrown in for good measure, New Year’s was filled with traditions from the Old Country brought to the new. 

Back in the old days, every Christmas each woman and girl in our family got a new apron from my Nana so we could start off the New Year all clean and fresh.  Symbolic, yes?  Sadly, that is one of our traditions that has gone by the wayside. These day none of us wears an apron anymore! (I do, however, have a gorgeous collection of handmade aprons that I treasure.) 

The food traditions?  What Pittsburgh German family doesn’t enjoy a steaming pot of fragrant pork and sauerkraut to insure luck and money throughout the New Year?!  Just check out the Giant Eagle flier to confirm that custom is still intact! 

While living in the almost-Southern state of Maryland, our New Year’s food traditions were influenced by some good old Southern good luck foods.  Greens and black-eyed peas insure luck and money in that area of the country, so we added black-eyed peas to our tradition.  Every bit of luck helps!

Some years we had ribs (pork is good luck because the pig goes forward when it roots for food...forward = progress), coleslaw (greens are good luck because they're the color of money), and black-eyed pea chili (peas and beans = coins = money)....definitely a change-up from pork and sauerkraut!  One year I found a recipe for Cowboy Caviar using black-eyed peas.  That one made it to our appetizer table and has been a family favorite ever since.  (During the year we use black beans in place of the peas…delish!  It’s a regular at picnics and parties.) 

So what’s going to be on our table this New Year’s day?  A new recipe.  I’d intended to make Michael Symon’s Pork Cheek Chili.  First off, I used ground pork in place of pork cheeks…come on, where do you get pork cheeks in Pittsburgh?!  Kimber and I made it together on Christmas Day.   Now you know there were some necessary substitutions…you just KNOW we didn’t have everything we needed…grocery stores aren’t open on Christmas Day!  So we made do with what we had on hand.

We only had one red pepper – no big deal.  No San Marzano tomatoes?  Fire roasted tomatoes stepped up to the plate.  Not enough of those?  Eh, add a can of RoTel, too.  Not enough fresh jalapenos?  That can of jalapenos lurking in the back of the pantry finally made it to the big leagues!  We added extra garlic and extra canned chipotle peppers.  And to make sure we get our good luck greens?  We added some chopped kale near the end of the cooking process!  Now we have all our good luck in one pot!  Sorry about the changes Michael.  (Somehow though, I think he’d approve.)   

How did it turn out?  It is a fantastic amalgamation of porky goodness, fragrant spices, a good heft of heat, sweet tomatoes, onions and peppers in a heady, smoky sauce. Since I haven’t had the original I can’t compare, but I can’t imagine it being any better than this.

Now I can sleep in on New Year’s day confident that 2012 will be filled with lots of luck and good fortune – all in ONE pot - thanks to our pseudo Michael Symon’s pork chili.  Hell, just sleeping in is a good start of good luck!


Smoky Pork, Black-Eyed Pea and Kale Chili

  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, warmed in a skillet until fragrant, then ground in a spice grinder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika, a good Hungarian variety
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • salt and pepper, freshly ground black pepper!
  • olive oil
  • 1 pound bacon, thick cut, sliced across into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 large jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (less if you like less heat)
  • 1/2 can jalapeno peppers, canned, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1   beer, gluten-free to make this GF
  • 2 cups chicken stock, canned is fine (be sure it's gluten-free to make this GF)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, fire-roasted kind
  • 1 can tomatoes with green chilies, RoTel (or another can of fire-roasted tomatoes if you like less would be a shame, though)
  • 4 chipotle chiles canned in adobo, plus a little of the juice, chopped (less if you like less heat)
  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked through
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 pound kale, washed well, chopped, leave the moisture on the leaves

Mix the pork, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper to taste together until thoroughly incorporated.

In a large soup pot, pour enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pot.  When it's good and hot, crumble half of the pork mixture into the bottom and brown well while stirring occasionally.  Remove that batch of pork and repeat, using more oil, with the other half of the pork.  Remove when it's browned to the same bowl as the first batch.

In the same pot, add the bacon and brown well.  Pour off almost all of the bacon fat, return to heat and add onions, garlic, jalapenos, canned jalapenos and red pepper and cook until the veggies are softened.

Add the pork back into the pot and all the juices, too.  Add the beer, stock, tomatoes and RoTel, chipotles, dried peas and the cinnamon stick.  Bring to boil, cover with lid and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until the peas are tender.  2-3 hours.

Once the chili is done, remove the cinnamon stick and add the chopped kale (it looks like a whole hell of a cooks down to almost nothing) and cook until the kale is wilted and the flavors come together beautifully.

Serve in bowls with cornbread on the side and it's dinner!

P.S.  Other Pittsburgh New Year's traditions?  1. A good luck New Year's pretzel from the bakeshop.  It's like a coffee cake in the shape of a big pretzel and drizzled with icing.  2. Standing on the front porch banging pots and pans with big spoons, making a racket!  3. Fireworks!  Nothing in Pittsburgh is celebrated without fireworks....just give us any excuse and we send up the rockets and party under the noise and explosions of color!  4. This one is a Welsh bring good luck, the first person through the front door in the New Year has to be a handsome dark-haired, gentleman.  No problem in our house when that describes my husband to a T!  5. Eating herring is a German tradition that my Dad enjoyed.  I don't follow this tradition these days although I loved herring when I was a kid! 

And finally, I always share the black-eyed pea dish of the year with all the family.  Share your luck!  Makes it all the sweeter. 

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