Dressed Up, Soil Replenishing Boiled Peanuts

By Caroline Hatchett

By

Caroline Hatchett
Boiled peanuts, honey mustard, buttermilk, hummus
Boiled peanuts, honey mustard, buttermilk, hummus

At Olamaie, Michael Fojtasek is cooking the cuisine of his Tennessee grandmother through the lens of a Per Se-trained chef and devotee of Texas product. Refined versions of hush puppies, hoppin’ john, cornbread, and pork chops all make appearances on the menu. One dish in particular—his boiled peanuts—is directly tied to the Southern tradition of tending to soil health. 

A sizable portion the Southern pantry as we know it—greens, sweet potatoes, turnips, and legumes, especially—owes its ubiquity to the region’s sorely depleted soil in the 1800s. After years of growing cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar cane, farmers had to begin building cover crops and nitrogen fixers into their rotations to bring the soil back to life. 

In 2016, Austin got its first modern-day local miller when James Brown opened Barton Springs Mill. Brown contracted a number of farmers to grow organic wheat and told them if they grew peanuts (mighty little nitrogen boosters that they are) in the off-season, he would find someone to buy them. Fojtasek was that person and soon had 50 pounds of unshelled, dried green peanuts delivered to his door.  

In keeping with his progressive, edited style, Fojtasek pressure cooks the peanuts and pairs them with a benne oil-honey mustard, pickled mustard seeds, local buttermilk thickened just so with Ultratex, and an Austrian green pea (aka field pea) hummus with garlic and Texas olive oil. “The peanut dish is exciting for us. It’s one of those nuances of the South that you either love or hate,” says Fojtasek.

For anyone who grew up cracking open boiled peanut shells and dribbling salty brine down their chins, it’s like witnessing your overall-wearing uncle play the part of debonair. The country sensibility isn’t lost, but Roy sure does look good in a bow tie.

Get the recipe here.

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