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Hoppin’ John for New Year’s Eve. December 31, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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2 comments

Silence Dogood here. Did you grow up with the New Year’s tradition that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Eve would bring good luck in the coming year? If so (or even if not), you might appreciate a few variations on that classic black-eyed pea recipe, Hoppin’ John, to add to your New Year’s repertoire. Choose your favorite or try ‘em all!

The first is a down-and-dirty basic Hoppin’ John from that priceless cookbook, White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler:

               Hoppin’ John

1 cup raw cowpeas [aka black-eyed peas---Silence]

4 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup raw rice [aka uncooked rice---Silence]

4 slices bacon fried with 1 medium onion, chopped

Boil peas in salted water until tender. Add peas and 1 cup of the pea liquid to rice, bacon (with grease) and onion. Put in rice steamer or double-boiler and cook for 1 hour or until rice is thoroughly done. [Note: 1 cup of rice in my rice cooker only takes about 1/2 hour to cook.---Silence] Black-eyed peas or canned peas will work if they’re already cooked.

Here’s a spicier version from Miss Daisy Celebrates Tennessee by Daisy King. (Miss Daisy’s Tea Room in Franklin, Tennessee was one of my favorite restaurants when I lived down there.)

          Hot and Spicy Black-Eyed Peas

3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 17-ounce can black-eyed peas

1 16-ounce can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped [Yikes---hard to chop undrained tomatoes! I think I'd buy a can of diced tomatoes if I were making this.---Silence]

about 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Assemble all ingredients and utensils. Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and saute onion and bell pepper; drain. Crumble bacon and reserve for later. In a saucepan, mix remaining ingredients and heat to boiling, then simmer for 20 minutes. Pour mixture into serving dish; sprinkle with bacon and parsley. Yield: 8 servings.

The third variation is from The El Paso Chile Company’s Texas Border Cookbook and is called Hoppin’ Juan (priceless!). Mind you, I’d make a few changes. I’d cut way back on the chiles—probably using just one the first time I made it, then upping the ante if I thought it could use more heat—and add a big diced sweet onion along with the green onions and garlic. If I didn’t feel like I had time to char, steam, peel, stem, and seed the chile(s), I might come up with a jarred version, or simply substitute some hot sauce (like my beloved Pickapeppa). But this recipe certainly sounds promising! Note that it’s vegetarian- and vegan-friendly.

        Hoppin’ Juan

6 long green chiles

1 1/2 cups black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed 

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil

3 green onions, trimmed and sliced (about 1/2 cup)

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 cup cooked white rice

In the open flame of a gas burner or under a preheated broiler, roast the long green chiles, turning them, until they are lightly but evenly charred. Steam the chiles in a paper bag, or in a bowl covered with a plate, until cool. Rub away the burned peel. Stem and seed the chiles and coarsely chop them.

In a medium saucepan, cover the black-eyed peas with cold water. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes, stir in the salt, and cook another 10 to 12 minutes, or until just tender. Drain. (The peas can be cooked up to 1 day ahead. Refrigerate, covered.)

In a large skillet over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the green onions, garlic, and cumin and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, for 4 minutes. Stir in the chiles and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the black-eyed peas and the rice and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, until heated through. Adjust seasonings and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

The authors point out that this also makes an easy salad if you stir in 2 or 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, cool to room temperature, and sprinkle with minced fresh cilantro just before serving.

Okay, your turn! What’s your favorite recipe for black-eyed peas? Do you eat them for luck on New Year’s Eve? Let us hear from you!

            ‘Til next time,

                     Silence

Those New Year’s black-eyed peas. December 31, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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12 comments

Silence Dogood here. In scenic PA, where our friend Ben and I now live, a dinner of roast pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s Eve is supposed to bring good luck throughout the new year. But in our native South, eating black-eyed peas and greens is the secret to ensuring good luck in the coming year.

There’s just one problem: We both hate black-eyed peas, and as for cooked greens, spinach is about the beginning and end as far as we’re concerned. (We do love kale and mustard greens, but raw in salads, not cooked. And we’re not counting lightly sauteed arugula or cabbage, which we both love. Neither would be considered traditional in our native Nashville.) OFB still talks about being forced to eat a tablespoon of black-eyed peas every New Year’s Eve, and as for me, my Mama was lucky to force even one pea down my throat.

My brother reminded me of my famous black-eyed pea aversion earlier this week, and it made me stop and think. OFB and I love beans. And black-eyed peas are actually beans. So why don’t we love them? In my case, it may have been texture sensitivity: the black-eyed peas at my household were always cooked until they were slippery-mushy, the texture I loathe most. In OFB’s case, an aversion to ham and lack of any flavoring in his mama’s black-eyed peas except ham may have been the culprit. Clearly, it was time for reevaluation.

A dish with the colorful name of Hoppin’ John is the classic way to serve black-eyed peas. The peas are cooked with ham or fatback and a lot of crushed red pepper (let’s hope that’s where the hoppin’ part of Hoppin’ John comes from) , then served over rice or grits, or rice is added to the peas during the cooking process. Being a vegetarian, this method was definitely out as far as I was concerned, and besides, it didn’t sound too flavorful. Not to mention that OFB would hate it.

Time for some serious research: Heading over to my good friend Google, I searched for vegetarian Hoppin’ John recipes. And there were plenty, some classified as vegetarian, some as vegan (though they were actually all vegan—no meat or dairy products). But none of them was really a Hoppin’ John. Some cooked the black-eyed peas in barbecue sauce, some served them up with tomato sauce, some cooked them with a passel of veggies, including tomatoes, bell peppers, and celery, many dumped in pseudo-meats, from pseudo-sausage to pseudo-bacon, one added a bottle of dark beer and some liquid smoke, another stuffed them into collard rolls. These recipes all looked pretty good (except for the pseudo-meat, yuck), but they certainly weren’t Hoppin’ John.

Hmmm. It looked like my problem was that I was limiting my concept of black-eyed peas to Hoppin’ John. Perhaps it was time to regroup, to step back, to think about black-eyed peas separately from the famous dish. Back to Google I went to search for black-eyed pea recipes. Meanwhile, I’d made an intriguing discovery: besides dried and canned black-eyed peas, some of the Hoppin’ John recipes had called for frozen black-eyed peas. Well, I thought, perhaps the texture of frozen black-eyed peas would be more beanlike and less slippery-mushy than canned or cooked-up from dried beans. I was now on a mission from God.

Again, Google didn’t disappoint. My favorite of the recipes that turned up in this batch was a black-eyed pea/potato taco. But no, I just wanted a recipe for black-eyed peas and rice. Rushing to the grocery yesterday before the snowstorm that’s battering us today, I found something even better than frozen black-eyed peas: fresh black-eyed peas! I couldn’t believe my eyes, but there they were in 11-ounce plastic clamshell packs. I snapped one up. By dab, by grab, I was going to make Ben and myself something we could actually eat for New Year’s Eve, even if I had to invent it from thin air!

Thinking things through, this is what I came up with. I’ll simmer the black-eyed peas in veggie stock until they’re tender, adding a splash of Tabasco Chipotle Sauce or Pickapeppa to give them a little heat, and some Trocomare or Herbamare for saltiness and additional flavor. Once they’re almost done, I’ll brown some butter in a saucepan and saute some sweet onions with thyme, oregano, and basil. Meanwhile, I’ll cook basmati rice in our rice cooker. (And long before any of this, I’ll have put sweet potatoes in the oven to bake along with a dish of cored apples in cider with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and raisins for dessert.) And yes, I’ll cook some spinach and serve it up with balsamic vinegar and salt as a side dish.  Finally, I’ll make a really hearty, crunchy winter salad.

Just before serving, I’ll stir the sauteed onions and butter into the black-eyed peas, then top the peas with shredded cheese and stir it in. (Checking the fridge, I see that I have shredded sharp white Cheddar, shredded Asiago, shredded Parmesan, and shredded 5-cheese Italian. I suspect I’d have chosen shredded mozzarella if I’d had any, but I think I’ll use the shredded Italian, which will have mozzarella as well as Asiago, Parmesan, and Romano. Guess I’d better see what the fifth cheese is!) Then I’ll spoon the thick pea mixture over the rice, top it with sliced scallions (green onions) or fresh cilantro, and voila! Black-Eyed Peas a la Silence.

Will they be any good? Er, who knows, but if not, there’ll be more rice and the baked sweet potatoes, spinach, and baked apples to fill the gap. And tradition holds that just by tasting them, we’ll have brought ourselves good luck for the coming year!

I’ll admit while I’m at it that another concept I found intriguing was a black-eyed pea salad. If I were making one, I’d cook the peas until tender but still holding their shape, then let them cool. Meanwhile, I’d tear some Romaine lettuce into bite-size pieces (or, gulp, open a bag of prepared Romaine) and pour them into a big salad bowl. Then I’d chop up tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, cucumber, sweet onion, and scallions (green onion) in a big bowl, add the cooled black-eyed peas, pour extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top, sprinkle oregano, thyme, and basil on lavishly, along with plenty of salt (we like RealSalt) or Trocomare, stir all well to blend thoroughly, pour it over the bed of Romaine, and serve. Knowing me, I’d probably sprinkle shredded Parmesan over the finished salad before serving. Yum!

What are your New Year’s traditions? Please share them with us. And a very happy, blessed, and lucky new year to you and yours!

           ‘Til next time,

                      Silence

The dreaded black-eyed peas. December 28, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , ,
7 comments

Silence Dogood here. Did you grow up with the New Year’s tradition that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Eve would bring good luck in the coming year? My mother was adamant on this point, and though she always made us a wonderful dinner on New Year’s Eve, at some point the dreaded black-eyed peas would make an appearance and we would all be forced to eat at least a spoonful. Yuck!!! How we hated them.

For years, I just assumed that black-eyed peas tasted horrible. But recently, I had a rush of brains to the head (in the immortal words of a friend’s mother) and wondered if the reason we hated the black-eyed peas was simply that my mother didn’t know how to cook them. This hadn’t occurred to me before because, in general, my mother was a wonderful cook. But thinking back on it, I realized that one thing she never cooked was dried beans, peas, lentils, and other legumes. The sole exceptions were the occasional pot of chili and that bowl of black-eyed peas.

In my own household, there’s almost always a pot of beans or lentils simmering on the stove. We love refried beans, black bean soup, vegetarian chili, lentil stew, dal, and the like, and eat them often.

So for this New Year’s, I’ve decided to give black-eyed peas another chance. Like lentils, they’re quick-cooking dried, but I discovered some canned black-eyed peas in the grocery and think I’ll try those before I buy a whole bag of dried black-eyed peas. And rather than just heat and serve them, I plan to make them into that iconic Southern dish, Hoppin’ John.

Hoppin’ John is a variant on that well-known and well-loved poor man’s dish, red beans and rice. We think red beans and rice with some hot-from-the-oven cornbread and a big, fresh salad is nothing short of delicious. Why wouldn’t Hoppin’ John be good, too?

Maybe you’d like to join me in my get-acquainted venture. I’ll give you three recipes to contemplate: one, a down-and-dirty basic Hoppin’ John from that priceless cookbook, White Trash Cooking by Ernest Matthew Mickler, and two other spiced-up versions that I think would be well worth trying. See what you think!

               Hoppin’ John

1 cup raw cowpeas [aka black-eyed peas---Silence]

4 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup raw rice [aka uncooked rice---Silence]

4 slices bacon fried with 1 medium onion, chopped

Boil peas in salted water until tender. Add peas and 1 cup of the pea liquid to rice, bacon (with grease) and onion. Put in rice steamer or double-boiler and cook for 1 hour or until rice is thoroughly done. [Note: 1 cup of rice in my rice cooker only takes about 1/2 hour to cook.---Silence] Black-eyed peas or canned peas will work if they’re already cooked.

Eeewww, no, this version may be traditional, but it doesn’t do much for me. Here’s a spicier version from Miss Daisy Celebrates Tennessee by Daisy King. (Miss Daisy’s Tea Room in Franklin, Tennessee was one of my favorite restaurants when I lived down there.) But, er, what happened to the rice?!

          Hot and Spicy Black-Eyed Peas

3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 17-ounce can black-eyed peas

1 16-ounce can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped [Yikes---hard to chop undrained tomatoes! I think I'd buy a can of diced tomatoes if I were making this.---Silence]

about 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Assemble all ingredients and utensils. [Gee, a home economist must have written this.---Silence] Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and saute onion and bell pepper; drain. Crumble bacon and reserve for later. In a saucepan, mix remaining ingredients and heat to boiling, then simmer for 20 minutes. Pour mixture into serving dish; sprinkle with bacon and parsley. Yield: 8 servings.

Nope, it’s still not doing it for me. But here’s one that’s worth playing with. It’s from The El Paso Chile Company’s Texas Border Cookbook and is called Hoppin’ Juan (priceless!). Mind you, I’d make a few changes. I’d cut way back on the chiles—probably using just one the first time I made it, then upping the ante if I thought it could use more heat—and add a big diced sweet onion along with the green onions and garlic. If I didn’t feel like I had time to char, steam, peel, stem, and seed the chile(s), I might come up with a jarred version, or simply substitute some hot sauce (like my beloved Pickapeppa). But this recipe certainly sounds promising! Note that it’s vegetarian- and vegan-friendly.

        Hoppin’ Juan

6 long green chiles

1 1/2 cups black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed 

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup olive oil

3 green onions, trimmed and sliced (about 1/2 cup)

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 cup cooked white rice

In the open flame of a gas burner or under a preheated broiler, roast the long green chiles, turning them, until they are lightly but evenly charred. Steam the chiles in a paper bag, or in a bowl covered with a plate, until cool. Rub away the burned peel. Stem and seed the chiles and coarsely chop them.

In a medium saucepan, cover the black-eyed peas with cold water. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes, stir in the salt, and cook another 10 to 12 minutes, or until just tender. Drain. (The peas can be cooked up to 1 day ahead. Refrigerate, covered.)

In a large skillet over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the green onions, garlic, and cumin and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, for 4 minutes. Stir in the chiles and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the black-eyed peas and the rice and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, until heated through. Adjust seasonings and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

The authors point out that this also makes an easy salad if you stir in 2 or 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, cool to room temperature, and sprinkle with minced fresh cilantro just before serving.

Okay, your turn! What’s your favorite recipe for black-eyed peas? Do you eat them for luck on New Year’s Eve? Let us hear from you!

            ‘Til next time,

                     Silence

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