Black-eyed peas, greens bring luck in new year

Published 11:59 pm Friday, December 26, 2008

It is the time of year again to eat the right stuff for good luck! You know what I mean, black-eyed peas and some greens, probably collards. Ranking behind green beans in popularity are black-eyes peas, also known as cowpeas. African in origin, they have been a staple in the Southern diet for more than three centuries. Sometimes served with rice, known as hoppin’ John, black-eyes peas are sometimes associated with a mystical and mythical power to bring good luck, and many a Southern New Year Day’s menu features the dish in one form or another.

Hoppin’ John originated in Charleston, S.C. Edna Lewis, in her cookbook, “In Pursuit of Flavor,” says in Virginia they never heard of Hoppin’ John. She also thought black-eyed peas were a little dull so she added some extra zing to the peas. I like her recipe and thought you might also.

Hoppin’ John

Serves 6-8

1 lb. dried black-eyes peas, picked over and rinsed

1 meaty ham hock (about 10 oz)

1 large onion, chopped

¼ teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes

9 cups water

2 cups long-grain rice

Bring all ingredients except rice to a boil in a large heavy pot, skimming any foam, then simmer, covered, until peas are barely tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer 4 cups peas and 4 cups cooking liquid to a heavy medium pot. Transfer ham hock to a cutting board, then set aside remaining peas and liquid in larger pot. Discard skin from ham hock and chop meat, discarding bone. Stir rice and ham into smaller pot of peas with 1½ tablespoons of salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a rolling boil. Stir then simmer, tightly covered, over very low heat until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and let hoppin’ John stand for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, simmer remaining peas and liquid, covered, until peas are tender, about 10 minutes. Serve with hoppin’ John.

Frank Stitt, owner of the Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, has some wonderful ways to embellish this classic dish also. He suggests topping the hoppin’ John with a dollop of pesto, some chopped tomatoes, even fresh crabmeat sprinkled with chopped basil, lemon juice, and olive oil. Now that sounds good!!

Now if you want to serve black-eyed peas another way, try this dip. Black-eyed peas are known as Mississippi caviar. This dip would be great for an open house on New Year’s Day. It can be refrigerated for 5 days and can be doubled for large groups.

Mississippi Caviar

Serve 10-12 people

3 16-ounce cans black-eyed peas, drained

½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper

½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper

¼ cup finely chopped hot peppers

¾ cup finely chopped onion

¼ cup drained and finely chopped pimiento

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard


Tabasco sauce

Tortilla chips

In a large mixing bowl, combine the peas, bell peppers, hot peppers, onion, pimiento, and garlic. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, and mustard and pour over the bean mixture; mix well. Season to taste with salt and Tabasco. With a wooden spoon or potato masher, mash the bean mixture slightly.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Drain the caviar and serve with tortilla chips.

I cannot let this New Year’s Day pass without giving you a greens recipe. This one is good and different and was found in the November 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine. I am doing this one to go along with my hoppin’ John. The nutty sweetness of the sauce round out the natural bitterness of the greens.

Brown-Butter Creamed Winter Greens

Serves 6 as a side dish.

¾ stick unsalted butter, divided

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 Turkish or ½ California bay leaf

6 black peppercorns

3 ½ lb. mixed winter greens, such as collards, mustard greens, and kale

6 oz. slab bacon, any rind discarded and bacon cut into ¼-inch-thick slices, then cut crosswise into ¼-inch sticks (lardons)

1 cup finely chopped onion

½ cup heavy cream

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes

1 tablespoons cider vinegar, or to taste

Melt two tablespoons butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, then add flour and cook, stirring, one minute. Add milk in a stream, whisking, then add shallot, bay leaf, and peppercorns and bring to a boil, whisking. Simmer, whisking occasionally, five minutes. Strain béchamel sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids, and cover surface with parchment paper.

Discard stems and center ribs from greens then coarsely chop leaves.

Cook lardons in a wide 6-8 quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown but not crisp, about eight minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then pour off fat from pot and wipe clean.

Heat remaining ½ stick butter in pot over medium-low heat until browned and fragrant, about two minutes, then cook onion, stirring, until softened, about three minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, then stir in greens, one handful at a time, letting each handful wilt before adding next. Add béchamel, cream, garlic, red-pepper flakes, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and boil, uncovered, stirring, until sauce coats greens and greens are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in lardons, vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Note: Béchamel sauce can be made one day ahead and chilled. Greens can be chopped one day ahead and chilled in a large sealed bag.

Happy New Year!!