Black-eyed peas are traditionally served on New Year’s Day in the South symbolizing good luck and prosperity for the New Year. I grew up with Hoppin’ John being served on New Year’s, though I was not a fan as a child. Having come to my senses, here is my recipe for this healthy and rich (in both the culinary and cultural senses) dish:
Rinse and pick over 1 cup of dried black-eyed peas. Cover with 5 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil for 2 minutes. Turn the heat off and let peas soak for an hour.
Prepare 3 cups of cooked rice: Rinse 1 cup of dry rice, cover with scant 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Cover and reduce heat to low (about 50 minutes for brown rice and 30 minutes for white rice). Turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes more. I prefer brown whole grain rice for the flavor, texture, and nutritional benefits.
Sweat the following for 5-10 minutes over medium heat in about 2 Tbsp fat. I use 1 Tbsp bacon grease and 1 Tbsp olive or other vegetable oil:
1 chopped medium onion (about 1 cup)
1/2-1 cup chopped bell pepper – I use a mix of green, yellow, red
1 chopped chile pepper (jalapeno, serrano, cayenne)
1-2 cloves minced garlic
Once the vegetables are soft and shiny, but not browned, add the peas, 2 cups of water, a bay leaf, 1 tsp salt, and a generous dash each of black and cayenne pepper. Add a ham hock or fat back for extra flavor and porcine goodness if you desire.
Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove bay leaf (and pork fat if added) and stir in the 3 cups of rice.
Simmer until all liquid is absorbed.
Traditionally Hoppin’ John is served with collards or mustard greens. We will be enjoying ours alongside a ham steak with red-eye glaze and a green salade.
Wine pairing: Served on New Year’s Day, Champagne or sparkling wine would be an appropriate and delicious choice. Albarino, Sauvignon blanc, Chenin blanc, Chardonnay, or a dry rose would also be lovely. Cheers!