Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hopping Into the New Year

After being out late and spending the day dismantling Christmas and packing each ornament, piece of garland and several strings of lights away I certainly don’t feel like hopping, but Hoppin’ John is one of those dishes you simply must have for New Year’s Day.

Luckily I have a man in the house who doesn’t mind cooking while I do other things and this recipe for Hoppin’ John is one of the dishes he prepared for us tonight along with a grilled pork roast, Sautéed Collards and Buttermilk-Cornmeal Biscuits with Honey Butter (see this link for the biscuit recipe)

Hoppin’ John is actually a dish that can be traced back to West Africa where it is still eaten today.   It’s very simple why Southerners eat Hoppin’ John on New Year’s…..tradition holds it will increase our luck through the year.  The peas are symbolic to coins.   Collard greens, of course, are symbolic of actual dollars since they are the color of money, and cornbread represents wealth since it’s the color of gold.
By eating some form of peas or beans to celebrate the new year we  actually are taking part in a custom folks followed back in the Middle Ages since the French and Spanish both traditionally had beans or peas on their tables for New Year’s.

It looks like we will have some Hoppin’ John leftover to enjoy tomorrow.  Traditionally the left over Hoppin’ John takes on the name Skippin’ Jenny.    I’m taking a few Advil in hopes I will feel like skipping tomorrow!

Hoppin’ John

This dish is prepared in two stages…..

Stage One:
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
¾ pound Tasso ham, diced
1 onion, halved
3 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves

In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine ingredients with 6 cups water.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until peas are tender but not mushy, 2 to 2 ½ hours.

Drain the Black-eyed peas and ham, saving cooking liquid separately.  Remove and discard the onion pieces, garlic, and bay leaves.

This is how the Hoppin' John looked at the end of Stage One.
Stage Two:

½ pound bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
½ tsp. fresh Thyme
1 cup Cajun Grain rice (or good quality long grain rice)
6 green onions, sliced
½ bunch parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

All the chopped ingredients are ready to add to the kettle.
Wipe out the pot and return to stove over moderately high heat.  Add bacon and render until golden (8-10 minutes), then add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and jalapeno.  Using a wooden spoon, stir occasionally, cooking until onions are translucent (8-12 minutes).   Add the thyme and 2 ½ cups water, and bring to a boil.   Lower the heat, stir in the rice, cover and simmer until the rice is tender, about 17-22 minutes

Stir in the green onions, parsley, black-eyed peas and ham, season with salt and pepper, and adjust the consistency with the reserved cooking liquid.   The Hoppin’ John should be lushly moist but not soupy.

Serves:  6

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