Happy New Year, all! Hope everyone had a warm, festive Eve and is relatively headache-free and rested post-revelry. Now, there are as many ways to prepare the cowpea and rice concoction of Hoppin’ John as there are squares on a calendar, but in many parts of the American South, the definitive date to simmer up a big ol’ pot of it is New Year’s Day. While the name’s origin is still the subject of some debate — some scholars asserting that it’s a corruption of “pois a pigeon,” a Carribean dish enjoyed by Southern slaves while still in their native land, and others claiming it’s derived from a 13th century Iraqi dish called “bhat kachang” — the dish’s fans maintain that eating it ensures good luck for the coming year. This may well be superstition, but I’m inclined toward any angle that’s gonna get a bowlful of it in front of me on a chilly January 1st.
My grand revelation of the day (though likely hardly news to many of you) is that cowpeas are the genus for the group that contains blackeye peas (most commonly used in Hoppin’ John), catjang, and yardlong beans. They’re also called crowder peas.
Some recipes for Hoppin’ John contain tomatoes or okra, and the swap in of okra for the beans makes it a Limpin’ Susie.
Got a favorite variation? Share it below, and peruse my favorite recipe after the jump.
Kat’s Hoppin’ John
1 dry cup blackeye peas (cowpeas or crowder peas)
4 cups water
Several thick slices of bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup uncooked rice (preferably non-instant)
Black pepper to taste
In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of peas in 4 cups of water to a vigorous boil for 2 minutes. Cover, remove from heat, and let it sit for one hour. Do not drain.
Cut bacon into 1/2 pieces, and fry with chopped onion in a lidded skillet. While the bacon is still soft, add 1 1/2 cup of the soaked peas (note – you will have extra peas left over), the water from the peas, one cup of rice, and black pepper to taste.
Bring this to a boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until rice is cooked. Fluff with a fork and serve with collard or turnip greens or a green salad.
Originally published at Slashfood