I did not realize until a few years ago that black eye peas are actually a thing for New Year’s Day. The importance of black eye peas became apparent when I worked in a grocery store. All year, the frozen black eye peas just never seemed to go anywhere. Then, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, they disappeared. Suddenly, customers are asking if we have more black eye peas in the back. I was flabbergasted but I found myself picking up this distinctly American tradition, in my own way. This New Year’s I am tapping into this tradition by eating beans on the first day of 2019 with this delightful smoky shrimp confit.
As an immigrant, my life is a blend of what I grew up knowing as my culture and what I have found in my odyssey away from my birthplace. There are parts of my new heritage that are intentional because I try to be very specific in who I am becoming. There are other parts that I have found and adopted through curiosity. My palate is very much about curiosity. There are many foods I did not understand at the beginning of my journey. Now, I find myself eating foods that amaze the woman that I am now.
Since I am not a big fan of black eyes peas, I am serving the confit shrimp with white beans. The idea to mash my beans comes from my love of ewa agoyin. Ewa agoyin is one of those Yoruba meals that nobody makes at home. Ewa agoyin is best eaten from the pots of a food hawker that parading the streets. There is something mythical about the deeply fried sauce is ladled in the well created within the plated mashed beans. I could tell you what the flavors in the sauce harken to but I can guarantee that nothing made at home is like the hawker’s sauce. A good ewa agoyin hawker’s sauce is not only dark, but it is also smokey, salty and gritty in texture.
I have tried to capture some the mythical nature of this dish by serving the black eye peas with an intensely flavored shrimp confit. The oil for this confit is where all the flavor exists. It is deeply flavored from the use of garlic and herbs. The smokey nature is pronounced from the addition of a sweet paprika powder that lends it a vibrant color as well.
Don’t be afraid of the oil in this dish. The seasoning to cook the shrimp means the oil is deeply flavorful. If you don’t soak up all the oil with bread while eating, store it in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It can be used on savory oats, to sauteed vegetables for a quick meal or even used to poach salmon.
The shrimp confit is a dish that requires patience but the result are so worthy of the time it takes to create. Why not start the new year off by coming to investing time in yourself? Cooking and exploring the different flavors that can exist in one meal is a good starting point.
Smoky Shrimp Confit
- 1 pound shrimp (deveined)
- 1 tbsp Sweet paprika
- 1/2 small onion cut into wedges
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 3 sprig thyme
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp salt
- 11/2 cups oil don’t use olive oil. Canola oil or a bland oil like safflower works best.
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- In a medium sized pot, add in the oil. Add in the rosemary, thyme, onion, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the oil is fragrant. This process takes no more than ten minutes. Let the oil cool down and strain. This step can be completed a day or two ahead.
- Pour strained oil back into the pot. Add in the paprika, chili flakes, and salt. Heat up until oil is just warm, around 200F. It should be at low heat.
- Add in the shrimp in bulk, carefully. Doing this brings down the temperature of the oil so that it does not fry the shrimp. Keep oil on low heat. Monitor the heat to be sure it is not too hot. Cook until shrimp for about 20 minutes when it starts getting a pink hue.