The Right Way to Greet the New Year

Dec 30, 2014

Black-eyed peas are said to bring good luck and prosperity to anyone who eats them on New Year’s Day.  Many Southerners serve their New Year’s black-eyed peas as a side dish or in a salad, but since I need all the luck I can get, I serve them as the main attraction on my holiday table.
 

Hoppin' John
Credit Justin Fox Burks

Hoppin' John is a classic Southern dish that is most famous for its place at the dinner table on the first day of the year.  Simple yet hearty fare, Hoppin’ John is a flavorful mixture of black-eyed peas, rice, smoked pork and onions.  Variations abound, most concerning the type of pork used. Bacon can be substituted for the ham hock traditionally used in this recipe. For a vegetarian version, just omit the pork all together.

Curious about the folklore for this New Year’s Day meal?

Peas are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day because their appearance resembles small coins. When consumed with financial rewards in mind, they are said to bring prosperity for the coming year.

Serve collard greens or cabbage alongside your peas to add to the wealth since these greens are the color of money.

Cornbread would not only be a delicious addition to the meal, but many believe its golden color will help add to your fortune.

So, for this new year, I offer you a steaming bowl full of Hoppin' John. May we all enjoy its good luck.

This is Jennifer Chandler with The Weekly Dish. Happy New Year!

Hoppin’ John

Hoppin' John is a classic Southern dish that is most famous for its place at the dinner table on the first day of the year.  Simple yet hearty fare, Hoppin’ John is a flavorful mixture of black-eyed peas, rice, smoked pork, and onions.

  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and sorted
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion (1 small onion)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced green bell pepper (1 small pepper)
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced celery (about 1 stalk)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups cooked white rice, warm
  • 1 can (15-ounce) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, for optional garnish

Place the peas in a large bowl or pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.
    
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, warm the oil until a few droplets of water sizzle when carefully sprinkled in the pot. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oregano, thyme, Creole seasoning, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, to brown the bacon, about 4 minutes. Add the peas and chicken stock.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes. Add additional water while cooking if necessary.

Adjust seasonings as needed. Discard the bay leaves. Strain off the remaining cooking liquid.

To serve, mix the peas, rice, and tomatoes together in a large bowl. Garnish with chopped scallions if desired.    

Serves 6 to 8.

Cooking Tip: Add your favorite hot sauce for a little heat.

Variations: Variations for this recipe abound, most concerning the type of pork used. I use bacon because that’s what I keep in my pantry. The more traditional ham hock can be substituted for the bacon used in this recipe if you prefer. For a vegetarian version, just omit the pork all together.

Do-Ahead: Cooked peas store very well in the refrigerator. Some even say they taste better the second day!

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Southern Pantry Cookbook by Jennifer Chandler.