On New Year’s Day in the South, it’s traditional to eat a meal of black eyed peas, collard or turnip greens, and cornbread. This is supposed to bring you luck and money – the peas represent coins, the greens represent folding money, and the yellow cornbread represents gold.
Sometimes people from – elsewhere – make fun of our superstition. Southerners call it tradition and wouldn’t dream of breaking it.
“But it doesn’t work,” these carpetbagging naysayers say. “Wouldn’t you have a lot more money?”
“Why, bless your heart,” we say. “We’re happy and we have a roof over our heads. Who knows how dire our situation would be if we didn’t eat black eyed peas and a mess o’ greens on New Years?”
Anyhoo. There are two accepted ways of preparing black eyed peas on New Years.
One way is cooking the peas from dried so they form a rich broth, then topping with chopped sweet Vidalia onion.
The other way is making a Creole dish of black eyed peas, spices, hot peppers, and rice – Hoppin’ John. Traditionally, this was a mostly vegetarian dish with a ham bone or piece of “streakin’ meat” thrown in for seasoning. Today, I see all sorts of bastardized Hoppin’ John recipes with huge amounts of ham or bacon, a minimal amount of black eyed peas sitting dryly atop a pile of rice, and – heaven help us – even cheese. We’re taking this recipe back to its roots.
BTW, if you have any Hoppin’ John left over, it’s called Skippin’ Jenny, and it’s supposed to be even luckier than Hoppin’ John.
- 1 cup COOKED Rice (I used Basmati)
- About 1 1/2 cups COOKED Black Eyed Peas (frozen or from dried); OR 1 can Black Eyed Peas (approx. 14 1/2 oz.)
- 1 Large Yellow Onion, chopped
- 2-3 Large Garlic Cloves, minced or pressed
- 1 Tablespoon Canola or Olive Oil
- 1 can Diced Tomatoes with green peppers and celery (approx 14 1/2 oz.)
- 1 cup Water
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 1/4 – 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- 1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1 Teaspoon Salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 Teaspoon Hickory-Flavor Liquid Smoke (optional)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, water, basil, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the black eyed peas and salt. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add Liquid Smoke (if using) and simmer covered another 5 minutes. If not using Liquid Smoke, just cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the cooked rice and mix well. (Yes, the rice is actually mixed into the beans … do NOT just serve the beans on top of rice!)
Taste, add more salt and more crushed red pepper flakes, if needed.
Spoon into bowls, serve, and be lucky!