Despite saying that I wasn’t going to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day this year, I broke down and made the traditional Southern dish of hoppin’ john. (I skipped the collards, though.) And I have to say, it was fantastic. As a bonus, I’ll have good luck this year due to eating black-eyed peas.
I was inspired to make hoppin’ john by some wonderful pepper-smoked slab bacon that I received as a Christmas gift. The bacon is what really made this dish. It was rich, smoky and hearty, probably the best hoppin’ john I have ever made. I had to call up my Dad, who gave me the bacon, right after dinner and thank him. Unfortunately, I threw away the wrapper and so now I don’t know where the bacon came from. If you plan to recreate this, do try to seek out a good-quality slab smoked bacon (not pre-sliced).
Hoppin’ john is an extremely simple dish to make, which means it’s a good choice for a weeknight dinner. Don’t save it just for New Year’s Day. Hoppin’ john is essentially another variant of the classic beans and rice combination. Most cultures have a version: red beans and rice from Louisiana, lentils and rice from the Middle East, black beans and rice from the Caribbean, to name a few. You can substitute other beans in this recipe and play with the seasonings to make any of the variants you choose. But please, don’t omit the bacon!
Yields: 4 servings (leftovers can be frozen)
Time to make: ~45 minutes with frozen black-eyed peas
What you need:
- 1½ cups frozen black-eyed peas, or the equivalent of dried peas, cooked, liquid reserved
- ¼ lb. slab bacon, cubed
- ¼ cup celery, chopped
- ½ cup onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. Cajun seasoning or to taste
- 1 tsp. oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup tomatoes, chopped, with their liquid
- ½ cup chicken stock (or use reserved cooking liquid, if you cooked dried peas)
- 1½ cups rice, cooked (I prefer the pilaf method)
- Optional garnishes: hot sauce, fresh parsley, chopped red onion, grated cheese and/or sour cream
- Sauté the bacon, celery, onion and garlic in the oil until the bacon is crispy and the vegetables are golden, 10 minutes.
- Add the seasonings.
- Stir in the black-eyed peas, the tomatoes with their liquid and the chicken stock (or reserved pea-cooking liquid).
- Simmer gently for 20 minutes, until the peas are tender.
- Serve over the cooked rice.