In an offering for the new years luck gods, we’ve whipped up two takes on the southern classic Hoppin’ John. The first, and more traditional take on Hoppin’ John, was made of black-eyed peas braised with herbs and smoked turkey, then served over fluffed white rice and topped off with slowly-stewed tomatoes that are somehow sweet, savory, and just a little spicy at the same time. The second element to the plate was a much different take. Here, we ate the black-eyed peas marinated in a slaw with a tamarind-citrus vinaigrette, then placed on a fresh, crispy rice noodle cake and garished with thin slivers of lime zest.
a hoppin’ good timeA: Haaaapy New Years, T!!!!
T: indeed. So, should we be looking back at last year or looking ahead to next year?
A: hmmm… i think yesterday was a time for recollection and today is a day to look ahead! i see blue skies and sunshine and kitties and flowers and….
T: wow. that’s a happy world you live in over there Amanda. I see the grey walls of our apartment. There’s a dead animal carcass in the garbage can. That’s what I see.
A: uh. dude. i don’t really think there’s a full animal carcass in the garbage can! and the walls are white, not grey…
T: ok, well at least you’re back from Mandy-Land. I think this is going to be a totally kick-ass year for us. I would have to guess there will be lots of ugly shit going on in the world in 2007, but I think the two of us will be doing just fine.
A: absolutely. we are definately a couple of lucky people. perhaps we’ll get even luckier from eating all this Hoppin’ John-ness.
T: Hoppin’ John-ness? What you be talkin’ about Hoppin John-ness?
A: oh, you know! it’s tradition to eat black eyed peas and rice on new years day for good luck! considering we ate black-eyed peas and rice two ways, we should have tons of luck this year.
T: I was asking about “hopping John”. What’s up with Hopping John? Who calls black eyed peas hopping johns? Where did this come from? How long have you been calling them that?
A: t, i think you just need to take a moment and read this and it will all become clear… but just to sum it up if you don’t want to read it, basically the name hoppin’ john originated in the south. the creole french in louisiana called black eyed peas pois pigeon, which they would cook up and serve to the slaves. the slaves would hear them called pois pigeon (pronounced pwahpeeJON) and it just evolved through the dialect to Hoppin’ John.
T: Well aren’t you informative this morning, Mandy.
A: hehehe well you asked! and, btw, if you freaking call me MANDY one… more… time… i’m gonna do something mighty ugly… i just don’t know what yet.
T: I’ll keep that in mind. So, this was a tasty new years meal… we had our black-eyed peas and cabbage… were we missing a meat of some sort?
A: well, traditionally the black eyed peas are stewed with some kind of smoked pig product. unfortunately i couldn’t find any ham hocks at the store and didn’t really feel like using bacon. so instead i added a smoked turkey leg we had in the freezer, and i must say, the flavor was right on.
T: I agree. They were quite tasty. Screw tradition… speaking of tradition, growing up my grandmother Ghee always made a sauce to put on our black-eyed peas. It was a spicy and sweet stewed tomato sauce that she would put in jars… we called it “chili sauce”. It’s pretty similar to the stewed tomatoes you used today except it was generally served cold (and it was sweeter).
A: that’s pretty crazy… i also grew up eating black eyed peas and stewed tomatoes… although we called them stewed tomatoes – not chili sauce. i haven’t eaten that dish since i was pretty damn young but if my memory serves me correctly it tasted just like this. at least my stewed tomatoes tasted just like these. i imagine the sauce Ghee makes is pretty close to what i made. the only ingredients in the stewed tomatoes were brown sugar, tomatoes, jalapeno, and salt.
T: I’ll have to find out what Ghee does for her chili sauce.
A: so what’d you think about the black-eyed peas and cabbage tossed with the citrus vinaigrette. i know the rice noodle cakes got a bit soggy pretty quickly.. but overall?
T: I thought it was quite tasty. I didn’t have any problems with the rice noodle cakes getting soggy. Actually I really liked the rice noodle cakes. I might have added some fresh sliced jalapenos to it though (just because i’m on a fresh sliced jalapeno kick).
A: mmmm hmmmm. it’s a good kick to be on. Okay, well i give both these dishes a 4.222/5. they were totally different.. yet oddly the same… just damn tasty.
T: yes, oddly the same. in that they both had black-eyed peas in them.
A: and rice!!! the noodles were rice noodles! and of course the rice.. was… uh. rice.
T: I give these a 4.35/5. Black eyed peas can only get so high of a rating, you know?
A: for sure. i love me some beans and rice… but not like i love cheese… or bread….or fresh pineapple…you get the picture.
T: mmmm cheese and bread. And curry.
A: oooo curry.
T: it’s been a while since you made a curry!
A: i know. i think i’m afraid of failure! after all we eat some truly killer curries on a regular basis and i’m kind of concerned mine won’t stand up.
T: well i think your curry will stand up nicely. oooh and you can make gulab jamuns!
A: hmmm, i’m liking the sound of that meal! i just don’t know how i’ll do! i’ve so little experience with a lot of the spices used in indian cooking. it’s definately going to be a learning experience. i think i’m up to this challenge. at some point!
T: damn straight woman. Woo hoo! you can make a curry a week! is that going too far?
A: i’d like to eat a curry a week! if i were to cook a curry a week i bet i’d get pretty good in no time.
T: yes you would. And our armpits would smell like curry.
1 lb black eyed peas
1 smoked ham hock or smoked turkey leg
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 lg or 2 sm fresh bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
three-finger pinch of crushed red pepper
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
Preheat large pot over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and celery and sweat the vegetables for about 10 minutes or until the onions look translucent. Add the bay leaves, thyme, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, and black-eyed peas to the pot. Stir the pot and allow the oil to bring out the flavors of the herbs for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the turkey leg or ham hock, then cover the beans with 2-3 inches of water. Season the pot liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Make sure to taste the liquid after seasoning to be certain there's enough salt. This is the only chance you have to really season the beans through, make the most of it. Turn the heat to high and bring the beans to a boil. Once the beans have reached a boil, drop the heat to medium-low to low and slowly simmer the beans for about an 1 - 1 1/2 hours. After an hour taste a bean for done-ness. If the bean is still crunchy, let it go longer until the beans are nice and soft but not mushy. If necessary, add more water to the beans so they don't dry out. Once the beans are done, serve hot over white rice with stewed tomatoes (recipe follows). Enjoy!
1 28oz can whole tomatoes
1 small jalapeno, chopped (can be omitted)
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
pinch of kosher salt
Add the can of tomatoes (including the juice), jalapeno, brown sugar, and salt into a medium sized saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat for about an hour, or until the tomatoes start to dry out. Stir occasionally, making sure the tomatoes don't burn on the bottom. Stewed tomatoes make a great condiment cold, warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
1 1/2 cups prepared hoppin' john (or other cooked black eyed peas)
1/2 head green cabbage, thinnly shredded
1 package rice noodles
vegetable oil, for frying
kosher salt and black pepper
for the vinegarette
juice and zest from 1 lime
juice and zest from 1 orange
1 tsp tamarind paste
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp dijon
1/4 - 1/3 cup canola oil
Begin by making the vinaigrette. In a mixing bowl, add the honey, tamarind paste, dijon, and juice and 2/3 of the zest from one lime and one orange, reserving the other third of the zest for garnishing. Slowly whisk in the canola oil to emulsify the vinaigrette. Taste the vinaigrette. If it's still too tart for your liking, drizzle in some more canola oil. In a separate bowl, add the hoppin' john (black-eyed peas), shredded cabbage, and enough of the vinaigrette to nicely lube up the slaw. Toss the slaw to coat all of the surface area of the cabbage and beans fullly with dressing. Try to nestle the beans at the bottom of the bowl where all the dressing will accumulate, so they will have a better chance of being fully marinated. Chill for at least half an hour. After the slaw has been chilling for 15 minutes, fully submerge the dried rice noodles in cold water and allow them to soak for around 15-20 minutes. After they noodles have soaked for about 15 minutes, heat a cast iron skillet over medium high to high heat with about one inch of vegetable oil in the bottom for frying. It is important to make sure your oil is properly heated, otherwise you will end up with soggy, greasy food, and we really want these cakes to get nice and crisp-i-fied. While the oil is heating, drain off all the soaking liquid from the noodles. Begin to form a few rice noodle cakes by kind of separating the noodles from their compact state then bundling them in your hands and forming thin patties about the width of your palm, around 3 inches. Most likely you won't be able to form a truly neat and round rice cake, but just try for as close to round as you can. Gently place a couple rice cakes into the heated oil. The cakes will start to expand as soon as they hit the hot oil, most likely you will be frying these in batches of two to insure each cake gets enough space in the pan. Fry the cakes for about 60 to 90 seconds for the first side, or until the edges of the cakes look golden.Flip the cakes using tongs, and allow to cook for another 30 to 60 seconds on the other side until fully golden and crispy. Remove the rice noodle cakes from the oil, allowing them to drain off some of the oil over the pan, then place on papertowels for further drainage. Season lightly with salt. Repeat the frying process until all the rice noodles have been made into to cakes. Directly before you're ready to serve this dish, remove the slaw from the frige, toss to evenly redistribute the dressing, taste, then season with kosher salt and black pepper as necessary. Using tongs, or clean hands, place a small pile of the slaw on to each of the rice cakes, then garnish with the reserved lime and orange zest. Serve immediately. Enjoy!