During each of Texas A&M's conference games, I'll be posting a brunch recipe and complementary cocktail for us all to enjoy. The recipes won't be your typical tailgate fare. I'm classing these up to bring a little extra fancy to our everyday lives. And really what's not to love? Brunch and cocktails is pretty much the best combination around. Get a group of friends together & celebrate your weekend! See all SEC Brunch posts.
One of the things Aggies love to hold on to is our shared past of famed coach Bear Bryant. While he reached his fame at Alabama, he also coached for Texas A&M, and we like to remind people of that. What I like most about him, though, are the stories and tales that surround him. To me, Bryant isn't so much a real person as a legend. And all legends have a collection of stories that may or may not be true, but are entertaining nonetheless.
Today's SEC Brunch is an ode to my favorite tale of Bryant. Whether it's true or not, it's great. And I wanted to share it with you today...
Once upon a time, the new Alabama head coach Bear Bryant was on his way to check out a possible recruit in South Alabama. On the way, he got hungry & stopped at an old cinderblock building with a sign outside that just said "Restaurant". He walked in to realize he was the only white person in the place, but went up to the bar and asked what they were serving for lunch. The owner told Bryant, "You probably won't like it here. Today we're having chitlins, collard greens and black-eye peas with cornbread." Bryant responded, "Sounds like I'm in the rice place," and ordered a plate.
While eating, Bryant and owner talked. Bryant revealed he was the new football coach from Tuscaloosa and was out on a recruiting trip. As he was leaving, the owner told Bryant the food was on him. Bryant tried to insist on paying, but the owner just asked for a signed photo instead. He didn't have any photos to give yet, but promised to mail one later, which he did the next day.
Many years later, Bryant was approached by a recruit who had already turned him down but had changed his mind. When Bryant asked him why, he said, "When my grandpa found out that I had a chance to play for you and said no, he pitched a fit and told me I wasn't going nowhere but Alabama, and wasn't playing for nobody but you. He thinks a lot of you and has ever since y'all met."
You can read the full version of that story here.
This is my version of the dish Bear Bryant was served in that restaurant. This dish is southern with a modern twist. It's easy to make. And it goes perfect with a smooth bourbon drink.
Black Eyed Peas & Collard Green Polenta
- 1 can black eyed peas
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes in puree
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp onion powder
- Salt, to taste
- 1 bunch collard greens, cleaned, de-stemmed and chopped (really, really clean them)
- 1 pound bacon, cut into small pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- Tube of pre-cooked polenta (18 oz.) - try to get a seasoned one like Basil or Sun Dried Tomato - cut into 1/2" discs
- Small container of fried onions
Start by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees. Next, pull out a large pan & start cooking the chopped bacon. Cook until crispy.
Mix the black eyed peas, tomatoes, cayenne, onion powder and salt in a pot. Bring to a boil & then let keep it warm until everything else is ready.
Just before the bacon is finished, put the polenta in the oven on a pan and cook for 15 minutes.
When the bacon is crispy, remove it from the grease with a slotted spoon. Let the bacon drain for a little bit on paper towels and then add to the black eyes peas.
Once the bacon is removed from the grease, add the garlic & red pepper flakes to the pan & stir until fragrant. Add the collard greens to the pan and stir until coated. Add 1/2 cup water and steam for 10-15 minutes with the lid on until the collard greens are fully cooked.
Now you should have cooked black eyed peas, cooked collard greens and heated polenta. It's time to assemble your plate...
Arrange the polenta on a plate; top with collard greens and then black eye peas. Sprinkle the dish with the fried onions.
And now make yourself a drink & enjoy.
Grilled Lemonade Arnold Palmer
I created a slightly new take on an Arnold Palmer to go with this dish. What makes it special? Grilled (homemade) lemonade. Mix with a little bourbon - or leave it out if you want to make it family friendly - and you've got yourself a really good, refreshing cocktail.
Learn to make your own Grilled Lemonade Arnold Palmer over on Fueled by Cocktails.