Hoppin John and Rice

American South
Great New Year's dish

Mildly spicy bean-and-rice combos are a classic in much of the South. Most agree that this manner of cooking was brought here by African slaves. No one knows how Hoppin John got its name, but it’s fun to guess. Variations of the original dish contain black-eyed peas, pigeon peas, or yellow-eyed beans. On New Year’s Day, the custom is to serve it to bring everyone good luck. Goes well with Mess A' Greens. This Hoppin John recipe was served at Judith Bruno & Roland Alden’s house on Jan 1, 2006.
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 scallions, chopped
3 1/2 cups cool water
1 smoked ham hock, split if large
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup long-grain white rice (Texmati or basmati)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 whole cloves, ground
1 teaspoon cayenne or ground red chile (optional)
garnish bowls (optional)
3 tablespoons chopped plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1 Rinse and pick over black-eyed peas. Put them in a large pot and fill with water up to 1 inch over the top of the peas. Soak overnight.

2 Next day. Heat large Dutch oven and warm oil to cook onion, celery, and garlic until slightly soft, about 4 minutes. Add scallions, cooking 2 more minutes.

3 Add the cool water, ham hock, cayenne pepper, bay leaf, and peas to the Dutch oven. Bring mixture to a boil, skim the surface to remove any fat. Cook at a bare simmer until peas become tender but not mushy. About 2 hours.

4 A few minutes before the end of cooking time, with all fat-skimmed, add parsley. Taste to check if salt needs to be added to pot. Remove ham hocks, pulling off meat, and cutting into fine dice. Add meat back to the beans, and discard ham bones.

5 Cook rice separately, adding 1/2 teaspoon of thyme leaves, ground cloves, and enough water to cover the rice thoroughly. Stir gently and cover simmering over very low heat for 20 minutes, or until the rice is done. Remove bay leaf. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon of thyme at the last minute, along with additional ground red pepper. Season to taste with salt.

6 Serve everything steaming hot at a buffet table. Guests can fill a bowl and make their own serving of Hoppin John with rice and optional garnishes.

servings  use metric
original recipe yield: 12-14 Servings
Notes NOTE On Ham Hocks. Not all hog knuckles are alike. For joints 6 to 7 inches long, fatter and meatier, have the butcher cut them in thirds.
On Bean Quick-soak method. Cover beans with cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to boil over moderately high heat in a large pan. Boil peas for 2 minutes, remove pan from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.
On Variations. Add diced carrots with the onions in step 2. A fair number of people skip the garnish altogether.

If you don't want all the hoo-hah, try simpler authentic vegetarian Black-Eyed Peas.

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