Black-eyed Peas & Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwiches

What  happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?
Bertolt  Brecht

Black-eyed Peas with Ham and Mustard Greens Hugh Acheson II

Field Peas and Ham with Mustard Greens & Grilled Pimento Sandwiches

The cold weather settled in for several days and prompted me to make the wildly popular (at least in our house) black-eyed peas with mustard greens a go-to recipe originally from Hugh Acheson. A simple soup recipe that is pretty adaptable as I discovered.  I couldn’t find a ham hock in the freezer to toss into the pot, pancetta, smoky bacon and a nice chunk of Kentucky preacher’s ham worked perfectly. A quick sauté of the bacon and pancetta added smokiness, but not as much as a ham hock would offer, a dash of liquid smoke to care of that, but use it sparingly if at all.  I also added the ham to the soup 10 minutes before serving.

A hot bowl of “field” peas soup and grilled pimento cheese sandwiches, a perfect dinner for a cold night.  Both recipes from Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South.

Grilled Pimento Cheese with Grilled OkraIII


Grilled Pimento Cheese III

I loved Acheson’s cornbread recipe and the croutons for the soup sautéed in bacon fat even caught the attention of Dillon the bacon snatcher, the cat that looks like he swallowed the bacon.  I had to hide the croutons until dinner time.

Bacon Snatcher I


Recipe adapted from Hugh Acheson, Empire State South, Atlanta

Yield: 4 sandwiches


8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 loosely packed cups)
1 red bell pepper–roasted, peeled, seeded (or jarred) and finely diced
¼ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
¾ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
8 slices soft white bread
unsalted butter for buttering the bread or mayonnaise
4 grilled okra spears, for garnish

1. Mix the cheddar with the roasted red pepper, mayonnaise, paprika, mustard, salt and cayenne until well combined.

2. Spread the cheese mixture onto 1 slice of the bread. Press a second slice of the bread on top of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining bread to make 4 sandwiches. Reserve any remaining pimento cheese for another use.

3. Spread a thin layer of mayo or butter on the outside of the sandwiches.  Melt a little butter in a skillet over medium heat and lightly toasted or grill on medium heat on stove top grill or grill pan. Work in batches if necessary; cook the sandwiches until the bread is crisp and golden, about 4 minutes per side.

4. Remove the sandwiches from the skillet and let cool slightly. Place on plates accompanied by the grilled okra, if using. Serve immediately.

Field Pea, Ham Hock & Mustard Green Soup
From “A New Turn in the South,” by Hugh Acheson (Clarkson Potter, $35).1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup minced sweet onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
1 stalk celery, minced
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup dried black-eyed peas
6 cups chicken stock (low-sodium if canned)
1 smoked ham hock, about 1 pound
1 batch of cornbread, baked and cooled
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 cups chopped mustard greens
1 cup chopped tomato
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil

Place a 4- to 6-quart pot over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the garlic, black-eyed peas, chicken stock and ham hock. Cook until the peas are tender, about 1 hour. Skim occasionally to remove any white bean matter that rises to the top.

Cut the cornbread into 1/2-inch-by-1/2-inch cubes while the soup is cooking. Heat the bacon fat in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the cubes and toast until crisp, cooking in batches if needed. Cool on a large plate.

Remove the ham hock and let stand until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bone, coarsely chop and return to the pot. Add the thyme, mustard greens, tomato and salt to the soup. Cook 10 minutes longer. Drizzle each serving with a few drops of vinegar and a dash of olive oil, and garnish with a few cornbread croutons.