I first learned of Hoppin’ John at one of my favorite Cambridge Massachusetts restaurants, The Hungry Mother. We went in to have a cocktail (their cocktails are outstanding) and everything smelled so good, that we decided to eat. Since we had just eaten a full-meal at home, I opted for a bowl of soup to gently warm me. It was simple; ham, collard greens and black eyed peas. The bartender proceeded to tell us that the soup would bring us good luck in the following year. It must have been true as we have been busy with work, ever since.
I could not shake the flavors of this lucky soup, and once I got home I investigated the tradition a little more, then I attempted to recreate our own version of Hoppin’ John. Traditionally, Hoppin’ John was served in the south states of the US, on New Year’s Day. It was said that it would bring a prosperous year filled with much good luck. The dish was made with either black-eyed peas or field peas, and they were symbolic of pennies. Collard greens or kale was also added to this dish to add wealth as they were the color of money. There is also the tradition of burying a coin (a clean one) in the cooking pot or putting one under the dinner bowls before serving.
Normally I would use dried black eyed peas and let them soak overnight before cooking. For this recipe I used frozen peas, as I wanted this recipe to be simple, and not time consuming. The frozen peas worked perfectly as they simply had to be defrosted about 15 minutes before cooking, and since they were precooked, there was a small amount of time for them to be reheated. Also, I used bacon instead of a ham hock, because I enjoy the smokiness of the bacon instead of the hock. To keep our lucky dish more on the healthy side, I used long-grain brown rice. It has to cook a bit longer but the nuttiness is perfect with the peas and greens. Creole seasoning is a favorite of mine to use when cooking greens, so I used the same in this recipe and it worked perfectly as the finished dish was bursting with flavor.
Happy New Year! Wishing each of you a brilliant (and prosperous) 2013!
Denise Woodward believes anything can be made at home as long as you have a little patience, and time. All of her recipes are made using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her recipes have been featured on Eat Boutique, the Mushroom Channel, Saveur.com, Foodies of the World, PBS and Fine Cooking.
Denise also creates the recipes on the popular food blog Chez Us. Saveur has featured Chez Us as one of 50 Food Blogs You Should Be Reading as well as one of the Sites They Love. Be sure to read more about what they are cooking up over at Chez Us.
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