The Love List

est. 2006 // BY JESS GRAVES

The Long-Held Southern Secret to Wealth, Health and Optimism in the New Year can be found in Your Kitchen

DEC 15, BOOZE, RESTAURANTS, RECIPESJess Graves

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.


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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.


INGREDIENTS

FOR THE BLACK-EYED PEAS

1 pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over

12 ounces tasso ham, diced

1 onion,halved

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

PREPARATION

FOR THE BLACK-EYED PEAS

In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine the peas, ham, onion, garlic, and bay leaves with 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until the peas are tender but not mushy, about 45 minutes, adding up to 1⁄2 quart more water if needed. Drain the peas and ham, reserving the cooking liquid. Set aside. Remove and discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaves.

FOR THE RICE

Wipe out the pot with paper towels and place over medium- high heat. Add the bacon and cook until golden, about 10 minutes, then add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and jalapeño. Using a wooden spoon, stir occasionally, cooking until the onions are soft and translucent, 8 to 12 minutes. Add the thyme and 21⁄2 cups water, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir in the rice, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, 17 to 22 minutes.

Stir in the scallions, parsley, and black-eyed peas and ham, season with salt and pepper, and adjust the consistency with the reserved cooking liquid. The dish should be moist but not soupy. Serve hot.


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