Mom’s black-eyed pea recipe brings good luck in contest
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Dec. 8, 2006 - Former Sulphur Springs resident Chris Owens, son of locals David and Emma Owens, found that there is some truth to the old Southern tradition of black-eyed peas bringing good luck. 

Chris entered his mother’s black-eyed pea casserole recipe in an “Emeril Live” football food contest, and out of 1,500 entries-he won.

�I don�t usually enter these things, but I was looking on the Internet for a recipe and came across this contest. The black-eyed pea casserole kind of came to mind since that�s always been a tradition for us,� said Chris, who admitted he has enjoyed cooking since he was very young. �I just entered on a whim.�

�I didn�t think anything would really come of it,� he added, laughing.

In fact, after several months went by with no word, Chris said he had forgotten all about the contest. A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, however, a phone call came saying he was the winner in the casserole category for the football food competition.

�A part of it could have been the mystique of the black-eyed peas tradition for good luck and tying it all in with the tradition of watching the games on New Years� Day,� said Chris, who explained he had to write a story to send in with the recipe.�

Football and food go hand in hand in the Owens family. And for more than 30 years, according to Emma, the black-eyed pea casserole has been a New Years Day favorite, right along with watching football games all day long.

�Anyone who knows us knows we are a football family,� said Chris, a 1990 Sulphur Springs High School graduate who went on to play college football and coach for 6 years, like his older brother, Greg Owens, now Sulphur Springs� head football coach.�

�It really started just as one of those News Years� Day traditions, but the boys loved it so much I started fixing it for church dinners or when the boys had friends over,� Emma said. �It feeds a lot of people, and you can add lots of different variations. Chris is very creative, and he uses all fresh ingredients - that�s probably why he won.�

�I do mine a little different from hers. I tweak it a bit,� he laughed. �I use lots of garlic, and I caramelize my onions. Mom likes her onions to have a little crunch. You can even use deer meat if you want. It�s really good. I like to serve mine with guacamole and sour cream. I�ve been eating it as long as I can remember.�

The recipe was originally called, Black Eyes of Texas Casserole, but Chris said he just calls it, Mama’s Black Eyed Pea Casserole.

Ingredients:

One can of black eyed peas with jalapenos

One can of plain black eyed peas

One and a half pounds of ground beef 

One onion-chopped

One teaspoon minced garlic

One can of mild Rotel

One can of cream of chicken soup

One can of cream of mushroom soup

One can of mild enchilada sauce

One dozen corn tortillas torn in fourths

Two cups of grated cheddar cheese

Prepare by sauteing beef and garlic until lightly browned. Drain excess fat. Stir in remaining ingredients, excluding onions, tortillas and cheese. Layer tortillas on the bottom of a 13x9 casserole dish, followed by meat mixture, followed by onions and cheese. Repeat layering process. Top with remaining cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

As the winner, a production crew from the Food Network came to his Coppell home to film him preparing the recipe in his own kitchen. He also received an all expense paid trip to New York for a live taping of the show which is to be aired sometime in February.

�I decided since it was Mom�s recipe, I better take her along,�� laughed Chris.

The two set out for their 3-day adventure early Thursday morning with plans to do “lots of sightseeing and shopping” in addition to Fridays filming of “Emeril Live,” which airs daily at 8 p.m. and 12 a.m. and Saturdays at 3 p.m.

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