Hello and Happy New Year!!! Today begins my Dinner 365 challenge and it has already been, um, challenging.** The kids stayed up to ring in the New Year and still woke up early, so they are a little it cranky already. I am in my parent's tiny cabin in North Carolina, super charming, but space is at a premium. There are 5 kids here under the age of 10 and 3 adults. The kitchen doesn't have a garbage disposal or a dishwasher and the counter space could best be described as "miniscule" but we forge ahead. I have a friend in Australia cooking her New Year's dinner over a camp fire today, so things could be a mite more challenging still.
Baby Back ribs; the kids' preferred method of eating pork and a catchy jingle of the late 90's, ("I want my baby backs, baby backs, baby backs..." )These are liberally seasoned with my trusty Adobo seasoning blend "con pimienta!" and then squeeze a fresh lime over all. I wrapped them in heavy duty foil and they will sit and "marinate" for awhile before we cook them "low and slow" in the oven. 275-300 for maybe 3 hours should do it.
We also made a picnic butt roast, a small but fatty piece of meat. We rubbed it all over with my father-in-law's super secret dry rub and tented it with foil in a shallow baking pan. Use any good BBQ spice rub or make your own seasoning blend with salt and spices, some people even use brown sugar in their rubs. The roast went in at the same temperature until a meat thermometer reached a minimum of 140 degrees. When you bring the meat out of the oven to rest the temperature will rise by 5-10 degrees.
Collard greens; the greens are best purchased pre-washed in the bag if available. They will still need an extra rinse or two, collards, mustard and turnip greens are notoriously gritty. If you like the frozen ones work well too. Greens are great with a bit of tabasco sauce or peppered vinegar, or my preferred way, just a dash of salt and pepper.
Plain white rice; I usually make brown rice, yellow rice or wild rice, but on New Year's Day it is typical long grain white rice for me. This is one of those recipes I have memorized, 2 cups boiling water, 1 cup of rice and salt to taste (maybe a teaspoon). Boil the water, add the rice, bring back to a boil for 1 minute then turn down, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Black-eyed peas; these can be taken dry from the bag, rinsed and then placed in a large stock pot with salted water. You can also add a bit of onion and garlic to the water. Usually mine are boiled up with a piece of ham, ham hock, or bacon, but I also make them vegetarian by adding chopped carrot, onion, celery and garlic and maybe a bay leaf for flavor and then adding a few tablespoons of olive oil when they are almost done. They take about 45 minutes. Today, due to space and time constraints we made frozen field peas with snap beans (aka black eyes peas with green beans). They were my first attempt at using frozen beans and they were great actually. If I had more freezer space I'd probably make them that way more often.
Cornbread, use any mix or recipe you like for the cornbread, but my tip to you is to get the pan hot in the oven with some oil or grease in the pan. When the oven is preheated, the pan will also be hot and ready. Pour your batter directly and quickly into the pan and let it bake according to your recipe or package directions.
Creamed corn; again, a frozen food I was not aware even existed. When I make creamed corn usually I am cutting corn off the cob and then "milking" the cob by scraping it with a spoon. Then I cook the corn for 25 minutes in the microwave with an entire stick of butter and some salt and pepper. Here my mom just took a frozen package of creamed corn, mixed it with a package of kernel corn and microwaved it all in about 10 minutes. It is not as good as fresh corn off the cob, but it is winter time and not the season for fresh ears of corn and it makes a fine winter substitute.
Our garnishes were home-made salsa and chow-chow from a local farm store. Chow-chow is a sweet relish and terrific with the beans and rice.
If you wanted to make this meal vegetarian, it would still be delicious. Skip the pork, use extra spices in the greens and beans and rice, for instance, using vegetable broth to make the rice (super flavorful!). Mixed black eyed peas and rice is it's own special dish called Hopping John, round out the plate with the hot cornbread and that is a wonderful meatless meal.
** Right after I wrote this post, we put the meat in the oven, set the temperature to 275 and left to take the kids swimming at the Y since the weather was so miserable today. We returned from the Y prepared to make rice and cornbread, heat up the greens and eat only to discover the oven had never turned on!!! We quickly cranked the heat in the oven to 350 degrees and cooked everything for an hour less than planned. We staved off hunger with a big platter of cheese, crackers, sliced meats, and grapes. The kids were remarkably calm after ingesting the entire platter in about 5 minutes and then ate a good dinner when it was finally ready. The cabin was quite cold so the meat had stayed fresh and probably the extra time "marinating" in the spices made them even better, so alls well that ends well!