The ‘dish’ on New Year’s

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 28, 2013


Sean Brock, who is a visionary Charleston chef, went to Dakar in Senegal to find the origin of low-country dishes like hoppin’ John and gumbo. As the chef at McGrady’s and Husk in Charleston and also Husk in Nashville, Brock is a strong voice in the Southern culinary revivalist scene; he’s attempting to bring back not just the dishes, but the pig breeds, heirloom vegetable varieties and near-extinct grains of the region. In his trip to Senegal, he visited the kitchens of three different women to see how Senegalese cooks go about making some of his favorite dishes: hoppin’ John (a stew of rice and black-eyed peas), collard greens and more.

How appropriate to try some of these dishes as the New Year approaches. We tend to eat greens and some form of hoppin’ John on this day to bring luck for the year. The two dishes I tried were delicious and just a small change from the traditional beans and rice and collards. The Senegalese do not use pork to flavor (most are Muslim), so Brock added smoked oysters on top of the dish of hoppin’ John to add a meaty flavor, and it really works. The collards are topped with roasted peanuts, which add a great crunch.

“Every culture has its own incarnation of rice and beans,” said Brock. “You only begin to understand what a person is all about after you have tasted their version.”

These are delicious dishes. Start out the New Year right with something a little different!

Recipes taken from ‘Food and Wine’ November 2013.



4 servings

Peas and Gravy

2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium broth

1 cup peas, soaked overnight and drained (Brock uses Sea Island Red Peas) I used regular black-eyed peas

1 medium onion, quartered

1 small carrot, halved

1 small jalapeño, halved lengthwise

2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed

10 thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoons unsalted butter



Kosher salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup Carolina Gold rice, preferably Anson Mills Carolina Gold (I did not use this, but used a long grain rice)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Two 3-ounce cans smoked oysters, drained

Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish


Prepare peas and gravy: In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil, add the peas, onion, carrot, celery, jalapeño, garlic, thyme sprigs and bay leaf and cook over moderate heat, partially covered, until the peas are tender, about an hour. Season with salt. Drain the peas, reserving the broth. Pick out and discard the vegetables, thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

Transfer 1½ cups of the peas to a blender, reserving the rest. Add 2 cups of the broth, the vinegar and the butter and puree until smooth. Transfer the gravy to a bowl and keep warm. Reserve the remaining broth for another use.

Make the rice: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a medium pot, bring 7 cups of water to a boil with 1 teaspoon of salt and the cayenne. Add the rice and simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice is al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain and rinse the rice under cold water; drain again.

Spread the rice on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dot the butter evenly over the rice and bake for 15 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until the grains are almost dry and separated. Transfer the rice to a bowl and stir in the reserved peas. Serve the rice and peas in bowls, topped with pea gravy, oysters and scallions.



4 servings

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 bunches of tender young collard greens (1½ pounds) stems and ribs discarded. Leaves thinly sliced

2 cups packed baby arugula (2 ounces), finely chopped

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 dried arbol chilies, crumbled (2 teaspoons)

Kosher salt

½ cup roasted peanuts, chopped

In a very large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant about 30 seconds. Add the collards and arugula in large handfuls, letting each batch wilt slightly before adding more. Cook, tossing frequently, until the collards start to soften, five to seven minutes. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and crumbled chilies, season with salt and toss to evenly coat the greens. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Transfer the greens to a serving platter; top with the peanuts and serve.

Happy New Year! And good luck! And lots of green in your pocketbook or on your plate!