Happy Hoppin' New Year!

It's a southern tradition to eat black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year's Day. I think the peas are symbolic of coins and because they swell when they're cooked, they represent getting a bigger return on your investment. Makes one wonder who didn't eat their Hoppin' John last New Year's, huh?  Collard greens might represent dollars, but the tradition of eating greens on the first day of the year pre-dates paper money in several cultures. So, perhaps green is lucky color or maybe it's just that southern style greens are just so darn good with Hoppin' John:-). To me, the simplicity of this meal makes it comfort food after the excesses of the last week or so. You can layer it all in a bowl for a one-dish football meal.

Hoppin' John:

  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
  • 2 small smoked ham hocks or meaty ham bone (bacon can be used in a pinch)
  • 2 medium onions, divided
  • 3 large cloves garlic, halved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 can (10 to 14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with chile peppers, juices reserved
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 green onions, sliced

In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine the black-eyed peas, ham bone or ham hocks, and 6 cups water. Cut 1 of the onions in half and add it to the pot along with the garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until the beans are tender but not mushy, 2 to 2 1/2 hours (or less, if you soaked the peas ahead of time). Remove the ham bone or hocks, cut off the meat; dice and set aside. Drain the peas and set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf, onion pieces, and garlic.

Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice, cover, and simmer until the rice is almost tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Mince the remaining onion and saute it until soft and transluscent. Add it to the rice along with the peas, tomatoes, and their juices, red and green bell pepper, celery, jalapeno pepper, Creole seasoning, thyme, cumin, and salt. Cook until the rice is tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Stirring often or you will create a mess in your pot!! Stir in the sliced green onions and the reserved diced ham. Serve with hot sauce and freshly baked cornbread.

HT: southernfood @ about .com

Collard Greens:

  • 2 pounds of collard greens
  • 1 ham hock or 6 slices of cooked bacon
  • 1 medium onion, sliced or chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons Kosher salt

Clean and wash greens well; remove tough stems and ribs. Cut them up and place in a deep pot; add onion. Wash off ham hock and add to the pot. Add red pepper and salt. Add enough water to cover greens and cook until tender, about 1 hour. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with sliced tomato and corn bread.

To make spinach instead: cook the onion and the bacon in the bottom of a wok or a heavy LARGE iron skillet. Add spinach and stir until wilted and then season with pepper and salt--not the same thing but it works. The first time I made collard greens for my father-in-law, who grew up on a North Dakota farm, he insisted that collard greens and kale were cattle food:-).

Happy New Year!