Many countries around the globe have culinary traditions designed to bring good luck in the New Year. In Spain, revelers consume one grape for every stroke of the clock at midnight; in Italy it’s customary to eat sausages and green lentils after midnight; in Cuba, roast pork is said to bring good fortune, and in the Southern United States black-eyed peas are believed to bring good luck especially in the form of Hoppin’ John, a West-African inspired stew of black eyed peas and rice flavored with pork. The beans are said to represent coins while the pork is a symbol of optimism since pigs forage forward through the earth in search of food and never look back!
Since we’re pretty big fans of Southern cuisine at Chez Miskew we decided to make Hoppin’ John. Steve took the lead and found and prepared this fabulous recipe from Chef Stephen Stryjewski published in Garden & Gun Magazine (gotta love a man in the kitchen!). Stryjewski is a CIA graduate who’s been a driving force behind the reawakening of the New Orlean’s food scene. In 2011 he received the James Beard Foundation’s award for “Best Chef: South” and is presently Chef and co-owner (along with partner and Executive Chef Donald Link) of New Orleans’ award-winning restaurant Cochon. In 2014 Stryjewski’s achieved another culinary coup, his latest endeavor Pêche Seafood Grill won the James Beard Foundation’s coveted “Best New Restaurant” designation, the first New Orleans establishment ever to receive this honor.
Despite Stryjewski’s lofty pedigree this recipe is pretty down to earth and easy to make and the results are definitely worth every ounce of effort! The tasty black-eyes peas soften as they absorb the delicious flavor of the Tasso ham, vegetables, and herbs. Tasso is a spicy and flavorful smoked ham seasoned with cayenne pepper, garlic, sugar, salt and paprika that’s a specialty of Louisiana cuisine. In the event you can’t find Tasso ham, you can purchase it through D’Artagnan by clicking here or ham hocks or shanks will also work nicely.
The end result is a hearty dish of earthy, savory peas and long grain rice studded with salty bits of ham and bacon. It’s perfect for bringing good luck in the New Year or as a hearty, delicious meal any other day this Winter. As for wine, an earthy Pinot Noir from either Burgundy or the New World will pair nicely with this dish (to view a selection of these wines from The Wine Atelier, please click here).
I hope you enjoy this delicious Hoppin’ John as much as we did! What’s your favorite New Year’s dish? Please let me know in the comment section below – I read all comments and would love to hear from you!
Happy New Year,
From Dec 2011/Jan 2012 Garden & Gun Magazine
INGREDIENTS (Stage 1)
1 lb. dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
¾ lb. Tasso ham, diced
1 onion, halved
3 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine ingredients with 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until beans are tender but not mushy, 2 to 2 ½ hours. Drain the black-eyed peas and ham, saving cooking liquid separately. Remove and discard the onion pieces, garlic, and bay leaves.
INGREDIENTS (Stage 2)
½ lb. bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
½ tsp. fresh thyme
1 cup Cajun Grain rice (or a good-quality long grain rice)
6 green onions, sliced
½ bunch parsley, chopped
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Wipe out the pot and return to stove over moderately high heat. Add bacon and render until golden (8 to 10 minutes), then add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and jalapeño. Using a wooden spoon, stir occasion-ally, cooking until onions look translucent (8 to 12 minutes). Add the thyme and 2 ½ cups water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, stir in the rice, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 17 to 22 minutes.
Stir in the green onions, parsley, and black-eyed peas and ham, season with salt and pepper, and adjust the consistency with the reserved cooking liquid. The Hoppin’ John should be lushly moist but not soupy. Serves 6.