Monday, January 3, 2011

What We Ate for New Year's: "Hoppin' John" for Luck

If you read my Monterey recipes column at The Examiner, then you may already have seen me talk a little bit about Hoppin' John. However, I actually wound up making a very different recipe from the one I posted there when I went to make my own New Year's dinner. The Examiner recipe was meant to be a quick and easy last-minute dish people could make in a short amount of time while this one is actually a vegan recipe meant to slow-cook for several hours.

It is still incredibly easy to make though and I like to think it's true to the original spirit of the dish. For those of you who don't know, Hoppin' John is a Southern dish that consists of black-eyed peas, rice and tomatoes. It often also typically contains greens and pork of some sort. Quite a few recipes call for a ham bone or ham hock, but I've seen some that revolve around sausage or ground pork instead.

Over the years, this dish has become something many people eat on New Year's because black-eyed peas, greens and pork are all considered to be symbols of luck and prosperity. Pigs traditionally represent progress while greens and beans are chosen because of the way they resemble money -- paper dollars and coins respectively. 

The following is the recipe I actually used and it was excellent. If I were to change anything about it, I'd swap the minced onion and cayenne for freshly chopped white onion and jalapeno, but I was out of those, so I made do.

  • 1 package dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 cup dried rice (a combination of brown and wild varieties)
  • 1 cup green salsa
  • 2 tablespoons salt-free garlic herb seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • Vegetable broth
You can either pre-soak your black-eyed peas overnight or quick boil them in water for 20-30 minutes to get them semi-hydrated before you assemble the rest of your dish. I quick-boiled mine, just FYI. Then I added a generous amount of vegetable stock to get them cooked most of the way before I added the rice and other ingredients. I don't really recall how long I let mine simmer, but it was something in the ballpark of an hour.

Next, add your rice along with another cup of vegetable stock. Also add your seasonings, but not the salsa. Then just simmer the mixture on low until your rice and beans are tender. Watch it to make sure it's not getting dry and burning though. If it is, add more vegetable broth in small amounts at a time to keep everything moving along. When you get to the point where it's finished, add your salsa and fold it in gently. Let stand for 10-15 minutes and serve.

As you can see in the picture above, I tried a little as soon as it was done and ate it over a bed of raw spinach to make it like a little bowl full of good fortune and money symbols. I was making pork chops to go with it and they weren't done yet. However, I was hungry anyway and couldn't wait to sample some.

After the pork chops came out, I ate some more along with some reheated squash medley leftover from another meal. The chop is one of the thick-cut pork chops they carry at Costco like the ones I featured in my grilled pork chop post from over the summer. This one isn't grilled though. It was seasoned with garlic pepper and baked in the oven at 350 until done through. That's it!

If there is anything that I really like, it's simple, comforting food that is still incredibly tasty and delicious. This meal totally fit the bill, too. I heartily enjoyed snacking on the leftovers today... probably a little too much. Fun fact: leftover Hoppin' John eaten the next day is called "Skippin' Jenny" instead. You've really got to love the witty names!
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