Hoppin’ John

Happy New Year, y’all!  It’s News Year’s Day so Southern kitchens across the country are making some variation of collard greens (for wealth), black-eyed peas (for luck) and stewed tomatoes.  There are few, if any, foods I dislike like I dislike a stewed tomato.  Yuck.  So you’ll find none of those here.  The past few years I’ve made hoppin’ john so I can get all the luck I need into one dish.

Hopppin’ John is one of those things that has dozens of variations, but generally speaking it’s a dish that includes rice, peppers, onions and black-eyed peas.  Mine also includes either ham hock or smoked turkey.  This year I threw the collards in too.  I did my chopping and made my rice yesterday to make today a little easier and things came together pretty quickly.  It takes about an hour to make the pot liquor so you’ll want to do that ahead unless you’re having a lazy New Year’s Day at home, which is always nice too.

The key to this Hoppin’ John is to not cook everything to death.  I know that’s counter-intuitive to the Southern way of cooking most vegetables, but mushy rice dishes are not good.  I use brown rice because I like the extra flavor and texture, but white works fine too.  When you saute the onions and peppers do so at high heat for just a couple of minutes.  You want to have the mellow cooked flavor, but you want then to have a little crunch left in them too.  The collards take a little more time.  You want to cook them long enough to cook the bitterness out, but you don’t want them to be soggy. Please use only fresh collards. The frozen ones will be too soft and often have stem pieces in them.  The black-eyed peas follow the same pattern as the collards.  You cook them in liquid long enough to make them soft, but not mushy. The pot liquor is the key to the whole thing.

This is one of my favorite ways to have my black-eyed peas and collards for New Year’s Day.  Here’s hoping it brings a lot of luck this year!

Good? Yes.
Easy? Well, it has a lot of steps, but they aren’t difficult
Good for company? Yep, it makes a bunch. And it’s nice to share a little luck with friends.
Special shopping? You can find a ham hock or smoked turkey leg pretty much anywhere, but you probably don’t just have one in the fridge.

Hoppin’ John

Pot Liquor

1 smoked turkey leg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp Tabasco

Put the turkey leg in a large stock pot and add 5-6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer 1-2 hours. Remove the turkey leg from the pot. Discard the skin. Chop the meat and add it to the finished dish.

Braised Collards

One small bunch of collards, stripped from the stem and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces.
1/2 C of pot liquor
2 T butter

Bring the pot liquor to a boil. Add the chopped collards. Cover. Cook 10-15 minutes until collards are soft, but not mushy. Discard any remaining liquid. Stir in butter.

Ingredients

2 C brown rice, cooked in pot liquor
1 bag frozen black-eyed peas, cooked in pot liquor, according to the instructions on the bag
2 C braised collards
meat from 1 smoked turkey leg, cooked
1 t olive oil
1/2 T butter
1/2 large red pepper, diced
1/2 large orange pepper, diced
1 sweet onion, diced
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t salt
1 t pepper

Directions

Heat olive oil and butter in a saute pan. When oil begins to smoke add peppers, onions, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir 2-3 minutes until vegetables are softened, but still a little crisp.
Heat rice and black-eyed peas in a pot. Add sauteed vegetables, collards and turkey meat. Mix gently so as not to break the rice.
Serve hot.

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