Try a little Hoppin’ John this weekend

Published 2:22 am Saturday, December 31, 2016

I have found the perfect meal for your New Year’s Day feast. The October/November of Garden and Gun had an article on a Lexington chef by the name of Ouita Michel who now presides over the kitchen at the historic Holly Hill Inn near Lexington Kentucky. She was asked to create a dish to please the families of both a Pakistani bride and her Kentucky groom. The result is hoppin’ John Biryani, a union so delicious you might wonder why no one thought of it before. Biryani comes in a thousand variations from Persia, Pakistan, and India but has much in common with the Southern New Year’s Day staple of black-eyed peas. Both are built around rice, fortified with beans, meat, or vegetables, and are often only created for special holidays.

The first version of Michel’s biryani for the wedding was a hit. But she kept experimenting adding her favorite bacon and country ham, adding pecans, parsley and green onions. She uses long grain rice, preferably the Southern-grown basmati variation called Texmati. She then stirs in black-eyed peas (fresh or frozen). You can change the ingredients in this biryani for your personal preference. I found the dish delicious and just a great dish to begin the New Year.

Happy New Year!


Hoppin’ John Biryani

Serves 8


For the rice:

2 cups Texmati long-grain rice

4 cups water

3 tbsp. vegetable oil

½ white onion, thinly sliced

½ tsp. ground cumin or 1 tsp. cumin seeds

½ tsp. ground cinnamon or 1 2-inch stick, cracked

½ tsp. ground coriander

¼ tsp. ground cloves or 5 whole cloves

¼ tsp. cardamom or 4 green cardamom pods, cracked

¼ tsp. turmeric

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. salt


For the black-eyes peas:

6-8 strips Broadbent or other thick-cut bacon (about 1 cup), cut into ¼ -inch lardons (I’m still a big fan of Benton’s and I just heard I could buy it in New Orleans! The shipping costs are more than the bacon when ordering from Benton’s in Tennessee.)

½ white onion, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 tbsp. garlic, minced

1 tbsp. ginger, minced

1 jalapeño, seeded and diced

1 12–ounce bag frozen black-eyed peas

2 cups ham or chicken stock

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste


For the rice: Soak the rice in water for 30 minutes. Drain and reserve liquid. Pour oil into a 3-quart Dutch oven and heat over medium. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add spices and continue to cook 2-3 minutes until spices become fragrant. Add rice and stir to combine. Pour in reserved liquid (you should have exactly 3 cups; if not, adjust amount with water). Add salt. Bring rice to a simmer, cover, and remove from heat. Steam for 20-30 minutes or until cooked.

For the peas: Place bacon in large saucepan and brown on medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery, and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and jalapeño, and sauté for 2 more minutes more. Stir in peas, stock, bay leaves, and pepper. Simmer uncovered on medium-low for 40 minutes or until peas are tender and most, but not all, of the stock has evaporated. Add salt to taste.

To assemble: Fluff the rice with a fork, then fold in the peas, along with the add-ins. Serve immediately or cover until ready to rewarm; moisten with warm stock, if needed.

Add-ins: 1 bunch chopped flat-leaf parsley; 6-8 sliced green onions; 1 cup diced toasted pecans; 1 cup browned country ham; ½-cup raisins or dried currants.