As long as I can remember my family has always had a few very specific things for dinner on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day: black eyed peas, ham, and cabbage each representing either health, wealth, or happiness for the coming year.
Now, I have always loved ham, it’s one of my favorite foods, right up there with crab. Cabbage has always been tasty to me too, with a bit of butter and sprinkled with salt. Black eyed peas on the other hand are a different story! Peas and beans, in general, are not really a food that I get overly excited about- I squeak by on New Year’s by forcing down maybe three peas. So, when my mom introduced a recipe she found in our local newspaper a few years ago called Hoppin’ John as a new way of incorporating ham and black eyed peas for our New Year’s meal I wasn’t too thrilled.
From what I’ve gathered, Hoppin’ John originated in the south as a meal consumed on New Year’s Day by slaves brought over from Western Africa. The peas represent coins -bringing wealth to the consumer. The mixture of the beans served on rice makes a complete protein needed when meats, dairy, and other essential foods aren’t available. This is why rice and beans tend to be a staple in less prosperous countries. A complete protein refers to a combination of nine amino-acids essential to the human body that we can’t produce, there for they need to be consumed but that’s a whole other science lesson we’re not go to go into!
The addition of the ham hock to the beans and slow cooking them with herb and spices results in a dish that has a punch of flavor and a creamier texture, whereas normally with beans I find the texture to be rather pasty. The concoction my mom found in the newspaper a few years back was a pleasant surprise that has come to be a tasty New Year’s tradition.
Here’s the Hoppin’ John recipe that I made this year. I hope you enjoy it and that you have a happy, healthy, and hopefully wealthy 2015!
Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 large ham hock
• 1 cup onion, chopped
• 1/2 cup celery, chopped
• 1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
• 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
• 1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
• 1 quart chicken stock
• Bay leaf
• 1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves (I used fresh)
• Salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper
• 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
• 3 cups steamed white rice
1. Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes.
2. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. (I left out the green pepper-I’m not a fan.)
3. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings.
4. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions.
5. Serve over rice.
6. Be happy, healthy, and wealthy in the new year!!