Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hoppin' john

Hoppin' john is a traditional Deep South dish made with rice, ham and black-eyed peas. It's supposed to bring you good luck if you eat it on New Year's Eve. I'm guessing it brings good luck on the other 364 days of the year, as well.

My mom always made it with leftover ham, but any pork product--bacon, tasso, sausage--will do. First I cooked down half a bag of dried black-eyed peas. In a big soup pot, I sauteed an onion, some garlic, a cup or so of chopped celery, and another cup of chopped peppers, along with a package of chopped tasso. As that cooked down, I added the black-eyed peas, chicken broth and a bay leaf.

In another pan, I made a batch of rice. In yet another pan, I started a batch of stewed tomatoes. I know it sounds weird and possibly gross to serve stewed tomatoes on top of black-eyed peas, ham and rice, but trust me--the stewed tomatoes pull the dish together. Beans and ham alone are a little bland, the tomatoes give the whole thing a nice acidic pop. To stew tomatoes, just dump two or three cans of tomatoes into a casserole dish, and add salt. Cook down for 20 minutes or so at, let's say, 375. My mom would add leftover bread or croutons to the tomatoes, but that's optional.

Once the rice was done, I drained off the beans a bit and mixed the whole thing together. I put that into another casserole dish and let it bake with the tomatoes, just long enough to blend all the flavors together. Serve with the tomatoes on top, a big wallop of good salt, and a cold Abita beer.

Cost: the beans and rice, bought in bulk, would run about 50 cents each. Another $2 for the ham/pork product/sausage/whatever, 50 cents each for two cans of tomatoes, plus another 50 cents for everything else. Around $4.50 total, for at least 8 full servings. That's about 55 cents per serving.

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