HOPPIN’ JOHN (black eyed peas from the American south, for six)
This is the New Years Day way to use the remains of a Christmas ham. In the South, they say eating hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day brings good luck in the new year, especially when combined with a plate of braised greens, symbolizing “folding green” money. Other standard accompaniments are rice (sometimes cooked in the ham broth) and corn bread.
1 pound (2-1/4 cups) dried black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
2 meaty ham hocks (1-3/4 pounds total), or leftover bones from a baked ham (dice and reserve any leftover meat)
9 cups water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 small (1-1/2 to 2 inches long) dried hot chile or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper
white rice to accompany
- Either place the peas in a bowl with water to cover them by 2 inches and let them soak overnight, or “quick soak” them by bringing 5 quarts of water to a rapid boil in a large bean pot or saucepan, adding the peas, and cooking them for exactly 2 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the peas to soak, covered, for exactly one hour, then drain. Rinse under cold water and, if you are not going to proceed immediately, leave the peas in cold water to cover until you are ready to use them.
- Combine ham hocks or bones and water in a deep 3-1/2 to 4 quart saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, until meat is tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Transfer hocks to a cutting board and measure broth. If you have more than 6 cups, boil until reduced to 6 cups. If less, add water to total 6 cups.
- When hocks are cool enough to handle, remove meat, discarding skin and bones, and chop. Chop any meat remaining on baked ham bones. Discard hocks and ham bones.
- Heat oil in a 5 to 6 quart heavy pot over moderately low heat. Add onions and salt and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add celery and green pepper and cook until vegetables are softened, 6 to 7 minutes more. Add reserved ham meat, chile, drained peas and ham broth to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until peas are tender but not falling apart, 20 to 30 minutes. Check periodically and add more broth if peas appear dry. (Any remaining broth can be used to make rice). Season with salt and pepper and discard chile.
adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook