Normally, I would forgo the fat and simply dice lean ham for the dish, but on New Year's Day I used hot and spicy Italian sausage that I got from Fairway, a fancy New York City deli. I don't even want to know how many calories are in the fresh sausage, but the day after New Year's, I'm back to eating lean meat.
Hoppin' John is thought to have evolved from foods prepared in West Africa. It was brought to the South Carolina low country by slaves before spreading to the entire South. Hoppin' John is served on New Year's Day to bring luck. Ha ... like we need an excuse to eat this mish-mash of spicy deliciousness! Here is the recipe:
16 oz dried black eyed peas (soaked overnight and rinsed)
1 cup onions, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 bell pepper (green or red), diced
|Photo: Betty Crocker|
4 cups water
2 large bouillon cubes (or 4 small cubes. Bouillon has salt, so you can omit salt.)
1/2 to 1 pound of hot sausage (or diced, lean ham)
spices to taste - I like:
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings (basil, cilantro, rosemary, etc.)
1 teaspoon oregano
sprinkle of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (If you use hot sausage, leave the hot spice out.)
a few turns of the black pepper mill
2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
A few sprinkles of Worcestershire sauce
Sprinkles of dried garlic, onion, celery
2 cups of rice
Optional: A fresh diced tomato, or canned tomatoes (You can throw tomatoes in, if you want a tomato taste.)
1) Dice and brown the meat (sausage today) in a skillet. If you produce a bit of grease, drain your pan.
2) Next stir fry the vegetables for 3-4 minutes in the same skillet: onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic.
3) Transfer the ingredients into a large soup pot (unless your skillet is huge).
4) Add the soaked, rinsed and drained black eyed peas and 4 cups of water.
5) Next add the spices, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce to the pot.
6) Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the black eyed peas are soft and done.
Make the rice separately according to the package directions. This time I used brown rice. (Another time, it can be white rice, or a different whole grain, though the rice + black eyed peas = the authentic Hoppin' John.) I top the rice with the black eyed peas and broth in a soup bowl. You can combine the rice and black eyed peas in the soup pot if you wish. (I'm leaving them separate, so the rice doesn't get soggy.)
Garnish a serving of Hoppin' John with diced chives, if you have them.
A side of kale or collard greens is perfection!
Here is an excellent history of the dish. Originally, it had just 3 ingredients: 1 pound of black eyed peas, 1 pound of rice and 1 pound of salted bacon. As the article explains, because the ingredients are processed differently today, Hoppin' John would taste bland if you fellowed the original recipe. It's impossible to reproduce the dish like it was back in the day. So that's why cooks add the Holy Trinity, seasonings and a bit of heat. Feel free to make this dish your own.
Happy New Year Everybody!
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