Words and Photos used with permission, courtesy of The Southerner's Cookbook
Hoppin' John: the only thing you ought to be cooking come January 1. Not only does superstition whisper promises of wealth and good vibes into the new year, the rice, beans and pork make for one hell of a great hangover cure. Serve with a side of collard greens ... and maybe a little hair of the dog.
Resolutions tend to come and go, but Southerners have a more enduring New Year’s ritual—a bowl of hoppin’ John. While folklore varies about the origins of this West African–influenced dish, a pork-flavored pot of rice and black-eyed peas, the symbolism stays the same: the beans represent coins, and the pork conveys optimism, because pigs forage forward and don’t look back.
“During the years my family moved around the South, I had many versions of hoppin’ John,” says Stephen Stryjewski, an Army brat and now co-owner and chef of Cochon in New Orleans. “But it was living in the Carolina lowlands, where black-eyed peas and rice were historically grown in abundance, that I learned to love the complexities of the dish.”
He sticks to a traditional recipe, but with two Louisiana twists—Cajun Grain rice, a brown jasmine variety flecked with bits of wild red rice, and the local pork specialty, tasso ham, letting its spicy, smoky flavor seep into the pot.
FOR THE BLACK-EYED PEAS
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
12 ounces tasso ham, diced
3 garlic cloves
3 bay leaves
FOR THE RICE
8 ounces bacon,diced
1 onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced 1 bell pepper, diced
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
1⁄2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 cup Cajun Grain rice (or a good-quality long grain rice)
6 scallions, sliced
1⁄2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper