Hoppin’ John

december 29, 2013

hoppin' john

Southerners know how to ring in the New Year with culinary good luck talismans : hoppin’ john ( a dish of stewed black eyed peas), greens and cornbread.  The black eyed peas are said to symbolize coins, the greens represent paper money and the cornbread makes a good stand-in for gold.  Lest you think we only care for financial stability while ringing in the new, congratulate us also on our good taste, as these dishes are delicious, filling and perfect for company and good cheer.

There are as many variations of hoppin’ john as there are peas in the stew pot, and today’s version happily omits the  smoked or salt pork traditionally added for flavor, keeping the vegetarians in your life satisfied.  Fresh black eyed peas are easier to find this time of year, but frozen will do well with long cooking.   Lacinato kale is the green lucky charm, added to the stew instead of cooked separately.  Any winter greens will do – collards, turnip or mustard greens, spinach or any variety of kale found in your local market.   Rice is usually served with the beans, and some cooks mix the rice and beans together, making a thick, fragrant one-pot meal.

Originally a Low Country dish, hoppin’ john is now claimed by many regions of the American South.  My version relies on the holy trinity – onion, celery and green pepper – so aromatic in Cajun and Creole cooking, plus thyme and a hefty dose of fresh garlic for flavor.  You are welcome to add bacon, salt pork, or even smoked turkey wings or drumsticks for traditional seasoning.

holy trinity for hopping' john

This recipe can easily be expanded to feed a crowd, and can be made spicier to taste with just a pinch more of cayenne pepper.  Mix up a cauldron’s worth, fire up the cast iron skillet for some buttermilk cornbread, and invite friends or family for a New Year’s Day feast by the fire.

hoppin’ john

recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company

makes four entree servings and 6-8 side servings

ingredients

1 cup sweet onion, finely diced
1 green bell pepper, finely dicedhoppin' john
1 stalk celery, finely diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, grated on zester
pinch cayenne pepper
1 pound fresh or frozen black eyed peas
1 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
4 cups or more best quality vegetable stock
one small bunch lacinato kale (or other type of greens), chopped
cooked long grain rice (basmati, carolina gold, jasmine)

directions

  1. Place chopped onion, pepper and celery in large heavy 4 quart saucepan or stockpot with olive oil and salt.
  2. Over medium heat, stir vegetables occasionally until softened but not browned, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, thyme and cayenne pepper and stir until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
  4. Add black eyed peas, tomato, kale and vegetable stock, bring to boil and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about one hour.
  5. Adjust seasoning to taste, and serve hot over cooked rice.
  6. Flavor develops well overnight and up to 5 days before serving.
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