Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hoppin' John

Today's offering is a New Year's tradition that I grew up with, black-eyed peas a/k/a Hoppin' John, served here with collard greens and garnished with Sriracha sauce.

I just hosted a potluck with Friends and we had lovely foods such as smoked trout, veggie chili, a mixed berry pie and chocolate to go with it. Tomorrow, the rest of the black-eyed peas will go to Bulls Head Meeting to be shared with Friends.

When I was growing up, the black-eyed peas were cooked with ham hocks. Some southern recipes call for bacon and bacon fat. This version is vegan but does not sacrifice any flavor. The smoke pork products provide 3 things to the dish: fat, salt and a smokey flavor. I compensate for their absence with liquid smoke, a dash of sesame oil, soy sauce and Adobo seasoning.

Hoppin' John is very easy to make. Start the night before by soaking dried black-eyed peas in water. First, it's a good idea to look them over closely and pick out any non-pea debris that you find. It's common with dried beans to find some inedible bits in the bag that didn't get sorted out in the packaging process. I used 3 lbs of dried beans for this batch but that is a LOT. Usually 1 lb will feed a family with left overs.

The next day, drain the peas into a collander and rinse with cold water. In the bottom of your dry soup pot, heat a little oil and then brown 1 large onion, sliced longitudinally, for each pound of peas you're cooking. Stir the onions frequently as they caramelize. When they are a nice toasty brown, put the peas into the pot and add water until they are covered plus a couple of extra inches. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce heat and simmer. After about 1/2 hour, add your seasonings to taste: liquid smoke, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos, sesame oil, Adobo seasoning, black pepper and rosemary. Taste the broth!

When the beans are not quite done - you can bite them but not pleasantly, stir in 3/4 cup of brown rice for each pound of peas you're cooking. Allow to cook until the rice is done. The peas will be done then too. You may have to add more water as the peas and rice soak it up.

I like to garnish my peas with some heat, either Sriracha sauce or Tabasco sauce and serve it next to some collard greens, cooked as I described in this blog post. I love the earthy down-home taste and feel of this meal. It's healthy too!

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