Hoppin’ John has been a much-anticipated meal here each New Year’s Day, since I decided to try making it years ago, to make good use of a leftover smoked ham. I started with my trusty Joy of Cooking, where I found a dependable, straightforward recipe. As I have gained confidence in my own cooking ability, I have tweaked the recipe in a few ways.
The end result also depends on what ingredients I currently have access to, whether stuck at home due to weather or pandemic, with what’s tucked away in the chest freezer in the basement, or what’s leftover from the holiday season that needs to be used so it doesn’t go to waste. So that’s why the title includes the year. Who knows what Hoppin’ John 2024 will be like?
- 8 ounces dried black-eyed peas
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 large bay leaves
- 3 cups chicken broth (I used 3 cups water and 1 tablespoon Penzey’s Chicken Base)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- additional water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 5 ounces sliced bacon, diced
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 6 ounces smoked cocktail wieners, sliced thickly (You can substitute 6 ounces of smoked ham.)
- 1 cup white rice (Either long grain or medium grain will work)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 ounces fresh baby greens of your choice (I have used spinach, kale, and mustard greens.)
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
- Rinse black-eyed peas and put to soak for at least eight hours with enough water to cover in a medium bowl.
- Drain and rinse peas. Place in a Dutch oven or large oven-safe soup pot. Add the thyme, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and chicken broth.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook gently, uncovered, until the peas are tender.
- Drain the peas in a strainer over a bowl to catch the cooking liquid. Transfer the cooking liquid to a measuring pitcher. Discard the bay leaves, transfer the peas back to the now-empty bowl, and season them with salt and pepper. Cover them to keep them warm.
- Add enough water to the cooking liquid to make 2 1/2 cups.
- Preheat the oven to 325 deg. F. Place the Dutch oven over medium heat and add the butter and bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon has released its fat and is browned.
- Add the onions, garlic, and cocktail wieners (or ham) to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring to coat them with the fat, until the onions have softened.
- Add the rice and 1 teaspoon salt, stir to coat with the fat, and then add the peas and the cooking liquid. Stir and bring to a simmer.
- Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the oven. Bake until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Do not stir, but it’s okay to taste the rice for tenderness.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle the parsley over the top, and stir with a fork to fluff the rice and mix it all together. Let it stand uncovered for 15-30 minutes before serving,
Note: If you want, you can cook your chosen greens separately and serve the Hoppin’ John on top of them.