The days and nights have been rough since our trip to Long Island for the Pawlak Family Christmas (never to become a holiday variety show, I promise you, as several of you wiseasses have suggested in private e-mails, cowards that you are to not actually post it). Ben and Sophie came down with horrible colds---fevers, snots, the whole schmear---and it has meant all hands on deck here at home. So much for attending the opening day for Local 44 (the new University City bar from the folks that brought you Memphis Taproom). Well, we tried.
But I have kept my New Year's Day tradition, food-wise: Hoppin' John, collard greens and pork to ring in the new year and bring good luck. I've never had a version of Hoppin' John that I didn't like, and a cursory search on the web, brings up literally hundreds of recipes, with variations of every imagination. This year, I chose a recipe from Emeril Legasse, and man, did this one turn out terrifically. I varied the recipe only slightly, substituting some finely dieced ham from my Xmas ham for the recipe's ham hock, but stayed faithful to Emeril's recipe everywhere else:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large ham hock or some diced ham
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 cups steamed white rice
Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice. Makes 10 small servings or 5 large servings.
We were talking about Hoppin' John on New Year's Eve, during an impromptu online chat in the No Bull Inn, our usual Friday night beer chat room on starchat.net (Fridays, 11:30PM EST). There were FIVE of chatting, so I guess I wasn't the only one stuck home on NYE (see above). So we had a few beers (several of us drank Victory Storm King Imperial Stout, in honor of the wicked weather) and at least a couple of us were making the dish the following morning.
On New Year's Day I got an e-mail from beer buddy Mike Gates, who remembered at the last minute to make some Hoppin' John. At such late notice he was able to snag some canned Goya black eyed peas, on whose label he found the very recipe he needed:
4 slices bacon
1 small onion, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 can (15.5 oz) Goya blackeye peas, undrained
1 packet Sazon Goya without Annatto
Hot Pepper Sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Drain fat excpt for one tablespoon and add vegetables. Cook until onion is tender. Stir in remaining ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Serve over hot white rice. Serves 4.
Sez Mike in his e-mail:
So I made the recipe on the can tonight. The recipe totally rocks and I have to share it with all of you! Good luck has already struck with this recipe. It's outstanding! I predict a great 2009 with plenty of blackeye peas throughout the year!
Note: I have Sazon Goya Picante (mild) in stock and used that for the recipe along with a few dashes of Habanero Tabasco Sauce. Didn't even bother with the rice. Man, was it ever good!
The kids, despite their colds, kept pretty busy today coloring with some construction paper, as well as with coloring books they got form Grandma for Christmas. So that allowed me some breathing room to cook aplenty. I started the Hoppin' John right after coffee on New Year's morning, and while that simmered, I started up a big batch of sausage and peppers in tomato sauce. I broiled both sweet and hot sausages as well as red, yellow, orange and green peppers and then tossed em in a stew pot with some homemade tomato sauce, let em get to know one another for about a half hour on simmer, and then laid some of that onto kaiser rolls and watched some of the NHL Winter Classic (Blackhawks and Red Wings outdoors at Wrigley!) and some of the Mummers parade.
For dinner (and for additional luck), I sauteed two large bunches of collard greens, chopped into strips, with a fistful of garlic, a swirl of brown sugar and some salt and pepper, my tweaking of the Portuguese dish served at so many rodizio restaurants in Newark. Alongside went grilled pork chops (brrrrrr, it WAS cold out on the deck) and lots of white rice, on top of which went plenty of Hoppin' John. Surprisingly the twins dug the beans AND the collards. Now that's a Happy New Year.