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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Traditions!....Traditions!

Feel free to put on your Russian boots and dance and sing like Topol in "Fiddler on the Roof " if you are so inspired by the title up there.  I know I was singing it as I typed.  We were fortunate enough to see it on Broadway several years ago but we saw Harvey Firestein and Rosie O' Donnell as Tevya and Golda.  It was an interesting cast.  The best part of the play was the ticket on the 8th row.  I really do love being close enough to see the facial expressions.  The last time we were in NYC we were lucky enough to get what they called obstructed view seats in the first box directly next to the stage.  It is my new favorite place to watch a play as we were able to see everything on the stage* as well as in the wings of stage right and also had a complete view of the pit.  We are going there in a couple of weeks and hopefully can score similar seats.

But I digress,  today is not about theater but is about those traditions we honor or feel bound to observe yearly.  I think there has only been one time in my life that I have foregone a traditional Southern New Year's Day Meal.  For those of you who were not born here to generations of Southern parents you might have no clue what I am talking about, so here is the rundown:
Black Eyed Peas , Pig product, Collard Greens, Corn product.  Usually we have it straight and simple with peas, ham, collards and cornbread.  This year we shook up traditions a tad and opted for pork steaks and grits rather than the ham and cornbread.  The result was delicious and a different form of the same food. ( I guess it really is like recasting the same play!)

Black Eyed Peas for New Year's Day:  Black Eyed Peas are supposed to bring luck to the year (Start this New Year's Eve) Wash and sort a small pack of dried black eyed peas.  Place cleaned peas in a large pot and cover with water overnight.  About 45 minutes before the meal drain the water from the peas, rinse again and put the peas in a pot and cover with water.  Add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 ham hock and 2 slices of hog jowl. ( Thank you Piggly Wiggly for having the jowl sliced in nice easy to use strips rather than the whole gross looking thing I used to have to buy!)  We do not eat the jowl at all but, since I have been told my entire life that the success of the coming year rests entirely in this first major meal of the new year, I refuse to tempt fate or whatever fairies are responsible for keeping the meal score.  So the jowl is in there and really does flavor the peas. Bring the pot to a boil and turn down the heat to a medium low until the peas are still firm but the centers are well cooked.  It truly is about a 45 minute process.  If you like mushy peas just continue to let them cook but please don't invite us for dinner.  I grew up eating mushy peas and like the firmer version much better.

Collards:  This is supposed to offer luck in the $$$$ department.  Collards come fresh in 2 forms.  One is in a bunch of large whole leaves, the other is in a bag, washed and either cut or shredded.  I am not going to argue with anyone about which they prefer, but if you buy the bag please go ahead and put them in a colander to rinse off any preservatives that might have been added to keep them fresh. ( Personally I think the bagged shredded collards located in the produce section of every grocery store is a message from God that I should buy them, and I try to listen to Divine messages.  But then again everyone sees and hears God differently.   If you use the bunches get busy washing and shredding)    Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of your largest saute pan or skillet.  Heat it over medium high heat and add 1 onion, sliced thinly.  Stir quickly until it begins to wilt and add 3 minced cloves of garlic.  Cook about 1 minute stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't burn.  Put enough shredded collards to fill the entire pan from top to bottom and add about 1/2 cup of water.  Put the lid on and cook until the greens are cooked down to about half their original volume, then add more collards to fill the pan again and repeat the process minus adding the water.  Only add water if the collards cook dry.  When they are again at about half of their original size top off the pan with additional collards , cover and cook until they are soft.  Salt lightly and stir to distribute the onions well and serve.  Hot pepper sauce is often used to sprinkle on top. ( This is the clear vinegar pepper sauce, not the red stuff)

Grits:   I'm not sure what the luck from corn is but we are thankful for whatever it is. I am not offering instructions on cooking grits.  If you can't read the package and make them you need to either use instant or go ahead and plunk down $5 for polenta which is basically expensive already cooked grits.  If you choose to use instant grits I am not judging  but please don't let me know you used them. Ditto for polenta.

Herb Crusted Pork Steaks

4 pork sirloin steaks ( can use chops also but the cooking time with vary with the thickness)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour ( can use white flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried savory
pinch of black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons cream

Put the oil in a saute pan and heat to medium high
Rinse and pat pork steaks dry.  Mix all the dry ingredients and put on a plate.  Place steaks, one at a time, in the dry mix and coat on both sides.  Brown the coated steaks in the oil  turning after about 3 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium and let cook for 5 more minutes.  Add the wine and cover the pan cooking for 5 more minutes or until done ( Like I said the thickness of the steak will determine the cooking time)
Turn the heat to high and reduce the cooking liquid so there is about 1/4 cup left, being sure to scrape up all the brown bits in the pan.  Add the cream and stir to incorporate.  Serve the pork steak on top of the grits.  Divide the sauce into 4 servings and pour over the pork.

I am not sure if the pork is supposed to be lucky or if it just tastes really good with the aforementioned lucky foods.  Either way it is still a part of our New Year plate.  Now that we are filled with food and luck we are spending the day as we are supposed to, in front of the TV watching the bowl games.

Wishing everyone a joyous and exciting New Year with hope, health and happiness!!!!!!!!

* Matthew Brodrick is not my favorite film actor but is quite at home on Broadway.  From our seats we could see stays in character even when he is no longer on stage.

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