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Dinner Tonight
Hoppin' John
December 28, 2011
By Jennifer Chandler

Black-eyed peas are said to bring good luck and prosperity to anyone who eats them on New Year's Day. Many Southerners serve their New Year's black-eyed peas as a side dish or in a salad, but since I need all the luck I can get, I serve them as the main attraction on my holiday table.

A smoked ham hock adds the pork flavor to this take on the hearty beans-and-rice dish called Hoppin' John.


A smoked ham hock adds the pork flavor to this take on the hearty beans-and-rice dish called Hoppin' John.

Hoppin' John is a classic Southern dish that is most famous for its place at the dinner table on the first day of the year. Simple yet hearty fare, Hoppin' John is a flavorful mixture of black-eyed peas, rice, smoked pork and onions. Variations abound, most concerning the type of pork used. Bacon can be substituted for the ham hock traditionally used in this recipe if you prefer. For a vegetarian version, just omit the pork all together.

Curious about the folklore for this New Year's Day meal? Peas are traditionally eaten on New Year's Day because their appearance resembles small coins. When consumed with financial rewards in mind, they are said to bring prosperity for the coming year. Serve collard greens or cabbage alongside your peas to add to the wealth since these greens are the color of money. Cornbread would not only be a delicious addition to the meal, but many believe its golden color will help add to your fortune.

So, for this New Year, I offer you a steaming bowl full of Hoppin' John. May we all enjoy its good luck. Happy New Year!

Jennifer Chandler is the author of "Simply Salads" (Thomas Nelson, $24.99) and "Simply Suppers: Easy Comfort Food Your Whole Family Will Love" (Thomas Nelson, $24.99). She is the national spokeswoman for French's Mustards and French's French Fried Onions. She lives in East Memphis with her husband and two daughters.

Hoppin' John

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and sorted

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion (1 small onion)

1/2 cup seeded and finely diced green bell pepper (1 small pepper)

1/4 cup finely sliced celery (about 1 rib)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. Creole seasoning

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 lb. smoked ham hock

4 cups chicken stock

3 cups cooked white rice, warm

1 cup diced and seeded tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped scallions (optional garnish)

Place the peas in a large bowl or pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, warm the oil until a few droplets of water sizzle when carefully sprinkled in the pot. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic, and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oregano, thyme, Creole seasoning and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the ham hock and cook, stirring to brown the ham hock, about 4 minutes. Add the peas and chicken stock.

Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender, about 45 minutes. Add additional water while cooking if necessary.

Remove the ham hock from the pot and pull the meat from the bones. Roughly chop the meat and return it back to the pot of beans. Adjust seasonings as needed. Discard the bay leaves. Strain off the remaining cooking liquid.

To serve, mix the peas, rice and tomatoes together in a large bowl. Garnish with chopped scallions if desired. Serves 6 to 8.

Note: Add Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce for a little heat.

Do-ahead tip: Cooked peas store very well in the refrigerator. Some even say they taste better the second day.

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