Every year I make this classic Southern dish to celebrate New Year’s. Hoppin’ John is one of those dishes that comes with many versions, stories, and flavors – but my personal favorite is this recipe I am sharing today from “The Joy of Cooking”, the most authoritative cookbook in America. My mom gave me this”definitive reference book” (see the below image of her inscription) for Christmas in 2002. I was 23 at the time, so that’s about how long I’ve been making this recipe – once a year for 16 years! This recipe is more labor intensive than just boiling some peas and rice…but it is SO WORTH the extra effort. Promise!
It is often served, both in my home, and in the South, on New Year’s day, as the black-eyed peas are symbolic of coins or pennies and represent prosperity, and are usually served with a side of collard greens (slow-cooked with a ham hock and a dime), which also represent money (they’re green and leafy like paper money). However, it is just as good on its own, in a big bowl with some Tabasco sauce, or a nice big serving on Chow-Chow on the side.
Happy cooking, and Happy New Year!!
Turn the peas into a large Dutch Oven (or any large ovenproof pot) and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Boil rapidly for 1 minute, then remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1 1/2 hours. Drain the peas and rinse thoroughly. Return the peas to the pot and add water, onions, garlic, pancetta, thyme, red pepper flake, and bay leaves.
Simmer gently, uncovered, just until tender, 20-30 minutes. Drain, reserving cooking liquid (I do this by placing a bowl under the colander). Discard the bay leaves. Season the peas and ham with salt and ground black pepper to taste. Cover and set aside, Let the pea cooking liquid settle for 5 minutes, then pour it into a 4-cup measure, discarding the residue at the bottom of the pot. Add 1/2 to 1 1/4 cups chicken stock to make 2 3/4 cups.
Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Set the same pot you used to cook the peas over medium heat and add 2 T butter and 2-4 slices of bacon, diced. Cook, stirring, until the bacon has released most of its fat and has begun to crisp. Stir in 1 /12 cups long-grain rice and 2 tsp salt.
Cook, stirring to coat the grains with fat, for 1 minute. Add the pea cooking liquid and bring to a simmer. Stir once with a fork, the cover and bake until the rice has absorbed all the liquid, 20 to 25 minutes. Scatter the peas and ham over the top, cover, and return to the oven for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup fresh minced parsley.
Toss lightly with a fork until the rice is fluffed and all the ingredients are mixed. Cover and let stand for 10-30 minutes before serving. Hoppin' John can be made 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature, then bake, covered and without stirring, in a 275 degree over until just warmed through.
Happy New Year!!