Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hoppin’ John

Hoppin' John is a deliciously spicy bean dish made of black-eyed peas simmered with bacon, sausages or ham hocks, onions, spices and served with rice. The dish is mainly associated with the Carolinas and reflects the cuisine of the Low Country and the African, French, and Caribbean cultures found in the area when the dish originated in the mid-1800’s.

There are almost as many theories as to how Hoppin' John got its name as there are ways to cook the dish. One story attributes the name to the custom of inviting guests to eat with, "Hop in, John." Another suggestion is that it is derived from an old ritual on New Year's Day in which the children of the house hopped once around the table before eating the dish. Whatever its origin, it was definitely a staple for many in the early South, and remains an important dish today.

Throughout the coastal South, eating Hoppin' John on New Year's Day is thought to bring a prosperous year filled with luck and good fortune. The peas are symbolic of pennies or coins, and a coin is sometimes added to the pot or left under the dinner bowls to usher in good luck.

My version uses bacon and canned beans (or frozen) instead of ham hocks and dried beans which reduces the cooking time. This dish can be prepared ahead, kept in the refrigerator and reheated the next day. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

4 slices of bacon, ¼ inch slices
½ onion, small dice
½ stalk celery, small dice
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15 oz can black eyed peas or purple hull peas
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups chicken stock
½ cup diced tomato
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a large saucepan, fry the bacon over moderate heat till almost crisp. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of the grease. Add onions, celery, and jalapenos to the bacon grease and cook over medium-high temperature for 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook one minute. Add peas, red pepper flakes, and chicken stock. Cook for 15-20 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in tomatoes, salt, and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Serve with white rice.

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