This was the year I fell in love with black eyed peas. (The food. Already loved the band.) They have a wonderful flavor, almost smoky, even without bacon or ham. Earlier this last summer we put them in a salad with feta and spinach. So so good.
The dish that black eyed peas are most famous for is Hoppin’ John. No idea where the name came from. And depending on where you are from you might not even call it that, but simply black eyed peas and rice.
Hoppin’ John is one of those classic Southern dishes that come with as many versions, stories and flavors as there are cooks. At its core, however, Hoppin’ John is rice, black-eyed peas (or field peas), smoked pork, and onions.
Black eyed peas are supposed to bring you luck if you eat them on New Year’s Day, and it is traditionally eaten with collard greens.
So, for this new year, I offer you a hot plate of Hoppin’ John. May we all enjoy its good luck. Happy New Year!
Hoppin’ John Recipe
Note that many things may affect the cooking times of the black eyed peas. They could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to cook to tenderness, depending on their age, where they were grown, and the water you are using.
- 1/3 pound bacon, or 1 ham hock plus 2 Tbsp oil
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 small green pepper, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 pound dried black-eyed peas, about 2 cups
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 heaping teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- 2 cups long-grain rice
- Scallions or green onions for garnish
1 If you are using bacon, cut it into small pieces and cook it slowly in a medium pot over medium-low heat. If you are using a ham hock, heat the oil in the pot.
Once the bacon is crispy (or the oil is hot if you are using a ham hock and not bacon), increase the heat to medium-high and add the celery, onion, and green pepper and sauté until they begin to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir well and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
2 Add the black-eyed peas, bay leaf, thyme and Cajun seasoning and cover with 4 cups of water. If you are using the ham hock, add it to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes to an hour, or longer if needed, until the peas are tender (not mushy).
3 While the black-eyed peas are cooking, cook the rice separately according to package instructions.
4 When the peas are tender, strain out the remaining cooking water. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Taste the peas for salt and add more if needed. If using a ham hock, remove it from the pot, pull off the meat, and return the meat to the pot.
Serve the dish either by placing a ladle-full of black-eyed peas over steamed rice, or by mixing the two together in a large bowl. Garnish with chopped green onions. Serve with collard greens, kale, beet or turnip greens.