Black-Eyed Pea and Watercress Salad with Corn Bread Croutons

Chef Sean Brock seasons his black-eyed peas with hot sauce, lemon juice, and vinaigrette before tossing them with crackling corn bread and peppery watercress for a Southern main-course salad.

Black-Eyed Pea and Watercress Salad with Corn Bread Croutons
Photo: © Christina Holmes
Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins



  • 4 ounces bacon, finely chopped

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for greasing

  • 2 cups medium-grind yellow cornmeal

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten


  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

  • Pinch of sugar

  • Kosher salt

Black-Eyed Peas

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

  • 2 ounces bacon, cut into 1/4 -inch-dice

  • 2 1/4 cups dried black-eyed peas (15 ounces)

  • 2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium broth

  • 5 thyme sprigs

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce

  • 1 bunch watercress (6 ounces), tough stems discarded

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground white pepper


Make the corn bread

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°. Heat a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven for at least 10 minutes.

  2. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until crisp and the fat has rendered, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Scrape the bacon fat into a small measuring cup and stir in enough canola oil to make 5 tablespoons total.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk the cornmeal with the salt, baking powder, baking soda and bacon. In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the eggs and bacon oil. Stir the wet ingredients into the cornmeal mixture.

  4. Grease the hot cast-iron skillet with canola oil. Add the corn bread batter, spreading it evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the corn bread is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack and let cool slightly, then unmold the corn bread and let cool completely. Cut half of the corn bread into 1/2-inch cubes; reserve the rest for another use.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients and season with salt. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Prepare the black-eyed peas

  1. In a large pot, heat the canola oil. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the peas, stock, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain the peas and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf; reserve the cooking liquid for another use.

  2. Transfer the peas to a large bowl and stir in the butter, lemon juice and hot sauce. Season with some of the vinaigrette. Add the watercress, season with salt and white pepper and toss. Transfer the salad to plates and garnish with the corn bread croutons. Serve the extra vinaigrette on the side.

Make Ahead

The cooked black-eyed peas can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. The corn bread can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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