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Happy New Year Hoppin’ John

January 4, 2010


When I first moved to Boston I lived with a girl from Texas. She was the first Texan I knew and from her I learned that Texans are a bit unlike the rest of us. There are things about living in Texas that you just don’t get anywhere else, and Texas food is a big part of growing up Texan. There were special brands of beans in the cupboards of the house I shared with her, and jars of bacon drippings in the refrigerator, and spice blends I’d never heard of. And on New Years day, she made a big pot of black eyed peas and rice and collard greens. She called it Hoppin’ John and told me that it is very important to eat Hoppin’ John on New Years day, for luck.

I never got a recipe from her, and when I decided to make Hoppin’ John this New Years day, thinking that perhaps I need all the luck I can get, I found a pretty wide disparity in recipes online. So I decided to go ahead and make my own. It is, after all, really the black eyed peas that matter here. Eating black eyed peas for luck is a tradition that might date back as far as 500 CE. Much like lentils in Italy, the peas are meant to be symbolic of coins, and eating them should bring prosperity in the coming year. So I’m eating black eyed peas and hoping for a little more prosperity for all of us.

Hoppin’ John

  • 4 pieces of thick cut bacon
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1 small green onion, diced
  • 3 leaves of collard greens, chopped into 1 inch slices
  • 1 c. brown rice
  • 1 tsp. cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 2 cups black eyed peas (canned are ok, but I used dried that I soaked overnight and cooked for about an hour)
  • about 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Big pot of beans and rice

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Slice the bacon into 1-inch pieces, and add them to the hot pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon begins to crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the onions to the bacon fat in the pot, and cook for about three minutes, or until they are soft and golden brown. Stir in the carrots, celery, and green peppers, and cook for another two or three minutes. Add the collard greens, and cook for another minute or two.

Now stir in the rice, cajun seasoning, and cayenne pepper, and add the bacon back to the pot. Add the canned tomatoes, beef stock, and tomato paste and stir well. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and let the mixture simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.

Stir in the beans, and some additional beef stock if the pot is starting to look dry. Allow the rice mixture to cook for another 10 minutes or so, or until the rice is cooked through. Season with a splash of vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Hoppin' John, for luck

This made enough to serve six or seven people, and apparently, eating leftovers (which are then called Skippin’ Jenny) are meant to bring even more prosperity, through evidence of your leftover-eating frugality. I have plenty of leftovers, and even some in the freezer for later in the year. Perhaps I’ll save those for times when I feel the need for a little dose of extra luck. This might not be traditional Texan Hoppin’ John, but it was delicious, and I feel luckier already.

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