Yesterday, when the cashier at Publix scanned my black-eyed peas, she asked me why people here think that it’s lucky to eat them on New Year’s.
The story is that when Sherman’s troops came through during the Civil War, they burned or stole most of the livestock and crops, leaving the people to starve. Only one crop was left behind, the lowly black-eyed peas, which had been raised to feed livestock. Who would eat them? So, many Southerners survived by the grace of those black-eyed peas.
Now, we say, “Eat poor on New Year’s, and eat fat the rest of the year,” because we believe that if you eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day, you’ll have prosperity all year long. The more peas you eat, the richer you’ll be. Most people serve them with a mess of greens, ham and cornbread, or they make a big dish of Hoppin’ John or Texas Caviar. But this year, I’m making Southern-Fried Egg Rolls.
I know, the idea sounds insane. But with every bite, you get a mouthful of black-eyed peas and collard greens mixed with smoky bacon, sweet Vidalia onion and melted Gruyere swaddled in crunchy, deep-fried goodness. The perfect New Year’s party food.
You don’t need luck when you have bacon.
P.S. If you’ve never folded egg roll wrappers, don’t let that scare you. Most egg roll wrapper packages come with a folding diagram, and there are videos online that can show you exactly how to do it. And, if you screw up the first two, you are in excellent company. Hint: Place the wrapper in front of you like a diamond, not a square.
Southern-Fried Egg Rolls
Adapted from Taste of the South’s “Christmas Cooking: Southern Style”
To make this a meatless recipe, omit the bacon and sauté the onion in 3 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil instead of bacon grease.
Makes about 3 dozen
- 1 (12-ounce) package bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 Vidalia onion, chopped
- 1 (16-ounce) package washed and cut collard greens
- 1 (16-ounce) package frozen black-eyed peas, thawed and cooked according to package directions
- 2 (8-ounce) packages Gruyere cheese, grated (Feel free to substitute another cheese.)
- 36 egg-roll wrappers
- Vegetable oil for frying
- In a large heavy saucepan or round Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until done. Strain all but 3 tablespoons of grease from the pan. Set bacon aside.
- Add onion to bacon grease, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Add collard greens in batches, stirring until wilted.
- Stir in cooked peas.
- Let mixture cool completely. Then stir in bacon pieces and cheese. Set aside.
- Place an egg-roll wrapper on your work surface with one corner facing you, so the wrapper is positioned like a diamond (not a square). Brush water around outer edges of the wrapper.
- Spoon about 1/3 cup bacon mixture into center of wrapper.
- To Fold the Wrapper: Fold the corner closest to you over the filling. Fold left and right corners to the center, over the filling. Tightly roll the filled end toward the remaining open top corner; gently press to seal. Repeat with remaining wrappers and bacon mixture. (You might mess up a few wrappers before you get the hang of it. If so, you are in excellent company.) Place the uncooked egg rolls on a baking sheet.
- Pour vegetable oil to a depth of 3 inches in an electric skillet or a large heavy saucepan. Heat oil to 350 degrees F over medium-high heat.
- Fry egg rolls in batches of no more than 4 at a time. Cook until egg rolls are deep golden brown, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
To Freeze and Reheat: For uncooked egg rolls, wrap each one in aluminum foil, and place them in a resealable plastic bag to freeze. When you’re ready to serve them, thaw the egg rolls in the refrigerator, and fry them according to the directions in the recipe. For cooked egg rolls, wait for them to cool, wrap them in aluminum foil, and place them in a resealable plastic bag to freeze. When you’re ready to serve them, reheat them in the oven.