Butter beans, lady cream peas, zipper peas, crowder peas: many Southerners have distinct memories of these local staples during summertime suppers. That’s because these varieties grow with reckless abandon in this region in the mid- to late-summer months.
In doing some quick Internet research for my idea for this recipe, I stumbled upon a few message boards in which Northern city dwellers were clamoring for these beans and peas. I never realized how spoiled we are to have them in such abundance!
For this recipe, I used zipper peas because I received them in my Dirt Farmers CSA box. I was less familiar with this variety, but I knew just the flavors to add to them: sweet onions and bacon -- the base of any good potlikker.
If you have never heard of potlikker, you probably know what it is: that velvety, earthy and meaty liquid that envelops peas and greens and begs to be sopped up with corn bread. Sound familiar?
Recently, Alex and I visited Macon’s famous H&H Restaurant, and I could not stop talking about the potlikker from their collard greens; it’s a different food group that has a great umami flavor of salty, sweet, sour and bitter.
For this recipe, I wanted to merge the quintessential Southern potlikker approach with a similar Italian dish: braised white beans. Instead of serving this with corn bread, I used buttered and grilled ciabatta bread to elevate the presentation. Since the bacon is omnipresent throughout the plate, I chose a lighter protein: shrimp. Alex and I bought a couple of pounds of shrimp in Darien on our way back from Jekyll Island this summer, so after I resuscitated them from the freezer, they were fresh and beautiful.
If you have not been to the Georgia coast lately, have no fear: many local grocery stores carry Georgia shrimp. Be sure to ask for them specifically, in order to support our state’s shrimpers. The addition of local cherry tomatoes and basil serves as a lovely contrast to the full-bodied peas and potlikker.
I love Southern food, and I particularly enjoy using regional ingredients to highlight just how local our cuisine is. Enjoy y’all, or bon appetit!
Alex and Eleta Morrison live in Macon and write a food blog, Bungalow Kitchen. Like their page on Facebook for updates and visit their blog at bungalowkitchen.wordpress.com. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Braised Zipper Peas with Vidalias, Bacon and Georgia Shrimp
3 cups fresh zipper peas
5 slices of bacon, cut in half
2 medium Vidalia onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 cups chicken stock
1 pound large Georgia shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails on
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
In a medium dutch oven, fry the bacon slices over medium-high heat on both sides. When bacon is slightly crispy, but not totally stiff, take the bacon out of the dutch oven and place on paper towels to rest. Add the sliced onions to the bacon fat, toss to coat, then turn the heat down to medium. For the next 30 minutes, stir the onions every 5 minutes to allow for the caramelization process.
Next, crumble the bacon and add it back to the pot along with the zipper peas. Add the chicken stock, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, then place the lid on the pot, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook for at least 30 minutes more.
Right before you’re ready to eat, melt the butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat and add the minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Allow the garlic to cook for about 1 minute, then add the shrimp, cooking for about 1 minute on each side. Be sure to not overcook the shrimp; it will continue cooking after you turn off the heat.
Using four plates or bowls, evenly divide the zipper peas. Next, evenly divide the shrimp (probably about five or six per plate depending on the size of the shrimp) into each bowl. Top each bowl with a handful of cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of fresh basil. Serve with grilled ciabatta bread.