Monday, January 01, 2007

Hoppin’ John: A Recipe to Bring You Luck in the New Year

If you were told that collecting chicken bones and burying them in the backyard at midnight while wearing daisies in your hair would bring you prosperity in the New Year, you wouldn’t do it, would you? Assuming the answer is no (it is “no,” isn’t it?), you probably are not a terribly superstitious person. Still, couldn’t we all use a little extra luck in 2007? I have a solution that won’t have you running around like a crazy wood sprite, and it’s tasty too.

In many parts of the American South, it is traditional to eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day to bring luck and wealth in the year to come. The peas, or beans with little black “eyes,” signify coins. Fill your plate with them and your proverbial cup will runneth over.

Hoppin’ John is a stew of the creamy, slightly sweet beans flavored with pork, thyme and vegetables. It’s easy to make, even when you start with dried beans. I soaked them overnight in a big pot of water and didn’t give them a second thought until it was time to simmer the stew. This is usually served over rice, but I skipped it and ate a warm slab of buttery skillet cornbread on the side.

Although it is tradition to make Hoppin’ John on January 1st, I think you’re still eligible for the fortune-conferring benefits if you cook this dish in the first week of the New Year. If anyone accuses you of giving in to superstitions, they will be silenced as soon as they have a taste.

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season and are as excited about the New Year as I am. I had a very fun Christmas in Washington with my family. I even got to cook some of my favorite things for them on our short visit. I will share a recipe soon. Cheers to a wonderful and delicious 2007!

Hoppin’ John
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse. Serves 6-8

1 tblsp. olive oil
2 to 3 pork hocks (about 1 ½ lbs. total)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large white onion, chopped
½ c. carrots, chopped
½ c. celery, chopped
salt and pepper
1 tblsp. chopped garlic
5 to 6 cups water, chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 lb. black-eyed peas, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
2 dried bay leaves
1 ½ tsp. dried thyme
cayenne pepper, to taste
1 bunch green onions, sliced
chopped parsley (optional)

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sear the pork hocks on all sides until browned. Remove from the pot and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion, carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute, stirring constantly. Add 5 cups of water or broth. Return the pork hocks to the pot and add the black-eyed peas. If you need additional liquid to cover the peas, add more. Add the bay, thyme, cayenne and more pepper, if desired. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes or until the peas are tender and creamy.

When the peas are nearly done, remove the pork hocks. Trim away the fat, cut out any chunks of meat and return them to the stew. Some pork hocks may not yield much meat, so you can skip this step if you wish. Taste for seasoning and serve with the green onions and parsley.

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Tanna said...

That is the best Hoppin' John I've seen.
Hope your New Years Day was wonderful and the next 364 are each equal to the first!!

Happy New 2007!

Kristen said...

This is the second time tonight I've read about this tradition. I hadn't heard of it before.
I hope you get everything you hope for in the new year!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Julie, this dish looks delicious - and to know that it brings you some luck won't hurt, right? :D

Here in Brazil, people cook lentils on New Year's Eve for the same reason.

Mallika said...

Welcome back Julie and a very Happy New Year. This recipe looks delightful... and me beign a superstitious Indian, I think it's a must cook for this week.

Speakout said...

I make Hoppin' John every year. This year I also used one of Emeril's recipes, but it didn't have carrots in it. It was also very good. And then, if you're gonna have black-eyed peas, you gotta have collard greens, so I usually have both. Happy New Year.

Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

We did hoppin' john, but made it vegetarian. It was still smoky from dried chipotle peppers and cumin.

I ate the non-veggie version every Jan. 1 growing up, so it was essential to make it. :)

Anita said...

I feel I should make it while we are still in the first week of Jan - It will be good to start off the year on a lucky note.

A very Happy New Year, Julie.

Julie said...

Hi everyone,
Thanks for all your comments! I am so frustrated with the new blogger right now because the post shows zero comments when that is not the case. I get email notification, and all the comments are here, but it looks like the comment function isn't working or something.

I love seeing how many people make this dish for new year's. Mike remembers his grandma making it and she recently passed away, so I thought of it as a nice tribute to her. Happy New Year!

Terry B said...

Whether black-eyed peas bring good luck or not, they make for some wonderful eating, especially in a lovely dish like this. There's a great, quirky restaurant here in Chicago, Heaven on Seven, that serves up a mean version of this. Since I don't get there often enough, think I'm going to have to try your recipe.

Rachel said...

That looks great. Anything that uses ham hocks is good in my book!

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

Maybe those black-eyed peas will bring you luck with the new 'all-that'blogger.
I think it looks awesome!

Lis said...

Hi Julie - commenting here on your 2006 top list, as that post isn't showing a link for comments. I know - I'm loving the new blogger too. hahaha!

Anyhoo.. great list! And I love that idea, maybe I'll do one too =) My favorite was your fresh fig gelato - dear Lord how that made me drool :D I didn't see the fig jam - so I'm off to read up on that now! hehe

Virginia said...

This sounds so much better than the normal boring black eyed peas that we usually eat. I can't wait to try it.