Hoppin John / Black-eyed Peas

A serving of black-eyed peas on New Year’s to insure luck in the coming year is a tradition for many and, goodness knows, we can all use a little extra luck. How it got to this honored position, I have never found out just exactly how, but like so many fine foods of today, it was not always so highly regarded. Black-eyed peas are actually a bean from China and India that came to the Americas via West Africa and at times has been considered livestock feed.  It enjoys a loftier reputation these days.

One my favorite ways to feature black-eyed peas is a dish called Hoppin John.  This is a very Southern U.S. dish and at its simplest form is rice, black-eyed peas, and a bit of pork.  As with any old recipe, there are about a hundred variations, so feel free to experiment to your own tastes. I am hooked on a southern Louisiana version featuring a Creole influence.  This time, I am going to include two related recipes.  Think of them as the shortcut and the long way.  Either one delivers a tasty way to enjoy black-eyed peas.

The Short Cut:

1 16 oz can of black-eyed peas
1 box (8 oz) of rice mix either jambalaya or dirty rice
1 10 oz can of tomatoes and green chilies

Basically, follow the instructions for preparation on your rice mix and add the tomatoes and chilies and the black-eyed peas in at the beginning.  This makes a very simple one pot dish.  Feel free to embellish with pork sausage or thin sliced bacon.  Just throw it all in together and let it cook.

The Longer Way:

1 onion diced
1 small bell pepper diced
2 cloves of garlic diced
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

2 cups water or chicken stock
1 cup white long grain rice
1 teaspoon paprika
? teaspoon salt
? teaspoon black pepper
? teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 16 oz can of black-eyed peas
1 10 oz can of tomatoes and green chilies
1 cup of thin sliced bacon strips

Let’s start all of this off in a large enough pot to hold the finished product.? In your pot, let’s sauté the onion, garlic, and bell pepper with the oil (or butter) until the onion is nearly clear.? Leave all of this on the medium heat and dump in the water, rice, and spices.? Give it a quick stir to make sure we don’t have any clumps, and then toss in everything else.? Give it a few more stirs just to make sure have everything good and mixed.? Personally, I bring it to a boil then back the heat down to low and cover the pot.? I cook it all just have if it were a standard pot of rice.? It will absorb the liquid and the rice should be tender when done.? Go classic and serve with a side of cornbread and big, cold, glass of sweet tea.? Enjoy.

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