Red Peas with Red Pea Gravy
Back in June, before SFA camped in Richmond for our Summer Symposium, we enjoyed a group meal at the Whiskey Jar in Charlottesville, where Wil Richey and his crew man the stoves.
That night, Wil cooked and served the best peas I’ve ever eaten in a life of eating peas. When I wrote him to ask how he did it, he steered me to the recipe Anson Mills publishes on its website. And he added a few tips of his own.
6 cups cooked Sea Island red peas
2 cups diced bacon
3 cup diced onion
3 tablespoons thyme leaves
2-3 cups chicken stock
2 Bay Leaves
Tabasco and Salt and Pepper to taste.
Soak the peas overnight and cook slowly in salted water, as directed. Strain and set aside.
Get a large flat, high-rimmed pan. Cook the bacon on medium heat until it has completely rendered its fat and gone crispy but not burned. Throw in onions and stir into the bacon to slow their cooking, letting the onions come to a heavy sweat but not letting them brown.
Add the Sea Island red peas, chicken stock, some salt and pepper, and bay leaf. Let this all come to a simmer. Soon a nice gravy will form at the bottom. Do not let it dry out. Add more stock if needed. Stir often.
The peas should absorb most of the fat and thicken the stock, making more gravy while it simmers. This should not take more than 20 minutes or so. I add Tabasco at this point, add the fresh thyme, adjust seasoning, cook another 5 minutes and serve with a slotted spoon. When the bowl is empty, sop the gravy with bread.