Hop, Hop, Hoppin’ John.

Matt didn’t believe me that there was a book called “Hop on Pop” by Dr. Seuss. I’m not sure what rock he has been living under for the last 30 years, but apparently it included only Latin, Shakespeare, and obscure poetry.
One of our New Year’s resolutions seems backwards from what we have been doing otherwise. I want to cycle through our pantry and freezer foods, and re-stock with new and fresh foods. This has little to do with our food storage, just rotational problems. We had a huge load of ham left over from Christmas and lots of rice and beans to boot. So as I flipped through my trusty America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook for Ham recipes, I found one for Hoppin’ John. Being a westerner from generations back, I had no idea this was a TRADITIONAL New Year’s day recipe in the South. Apparently, it is almost requisite that you eat black-eyed peas on new years if you want ANY luck whatsoever. Sorry, it’s too late for most of you, but better luck next year, right?
It actually turned out really excellent, considering I’ve never seen the dish prepared (not even in the cookbook), or had ever cooked with black-eyed peas before. Matt can’t seem to get enough of it, and since I checked out Hop on Pop from the library, we’ve cleared up the other hop issues.
My recipe is almost straight from the cookbook, but as usual, I made a few changes. We were lucky to find that our parsley has continued to grow through the snow, as it brightened up a somewhat dull looking dish. Traditionally this is served with white rice, and we took no exception to that. While brown is healthier, the white rice was perfect at helping tone down some of the gorgeous heat of the dish. And strangely, like the post before, this is great with a glass of milk.
Hoppin’ John
8 oz bacon, chopped coarse
2 onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed (minced is ideal, but pressed is about a billion times easier)
1 1/2 t minced fresh thyme or 1/2 t dried
6 c water
1 pound dried black eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
2 bay laves
1/2 t red pepper flakes
2 to 3 cups thick sliced ham, chopped into small bite pieces
2 T chopped fresh parsley

1. Adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat hte oven to 300 degrees. Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Stir the onions and 1 teaspoon salt and continue to cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Stire in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the water, scraping up any browned bits (aka flavor). Stir in the black-eyed peas, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 t. pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake, stirring every 30 minutes, until peas are tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Mine took 1 1/2 hours).
3. Remove the lid and stir in the ham. Continue to bake, uncovered, until the liquid has thickened, about 30 minutes.
4. Discard the bay leaves. Let the peas sit for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste. (And the Tabasco really adds some nice flavor, not just heat)

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