In the southern part of the US, one of the traditional meals on New Year’s Day is pig of some sort (pork chops, ham, etc.), collard greens (or mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, or some other leafy green), and Hoppin’ John, a dish made with rice and black eye peas. The various dishes are supposed to bring you wealth and luck and general prosperity for the new year.
Yesterday, for the actual first day of the new year, we did the Italian good-luck dinner instead, which consisted of cotechino (pork), mashed potatoes, and lentils. Still, just because it’s not January 1, doesn’t mean I can’t still do the Southern version of the traditional new year’s dinner. After the past year, I’m sure a little bit of extra luck and wealth wouldn’t go unappreciated!
Fortunately, I can get the ingredients to make Hoppin’ John here in the Netherlands. Although I think I should now call it Hoppin’ Jan, instead. There’s a shop at the end of the street that sells the black eye bonen. They might even sell the dried beans, instead of just the canned ones, but I’m taking the easy way out this time. A package of witte rijst (white rice), some ontbijtspek (bacon), an ui (onion), and some seasoning are already on hand. (For the record, I cook the rice in chicken broth for a bit of extra flavor, thus the kippen bouillon.) Our celery has turned to rubber, so I’ll have to pick up some more this afternoon when I hit up Albert Hein for the pork chops and the kale. I thought about heading over to the big outdoor market to see if I could find some collards or mustard greens, but today, I can’t be bothered. That’s what a bad night’s sleep will do to you. Thank goodness kale is popular here!
In case you’re interested in the recipe for my version of Hoppin’ Jan, here goes:
1 cup dry white rice
1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube
1 can black eye peas
1-2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
.5 – 1 tsp dried oregano
dash of Tabasco
dash of vinegar or lemon juice
2-4 oz. bacon, chopped
Bring 2 cups of water and the bouillon cube to a boil, and add in the dried oregano (or any dried herb of your choice). When it comes to a boil, add in the rice and cook according to directions, about 20 minutes or so, until it’s done. When the rice is done, empty it out into a mixing/serving bowl. Add in the drained black eye peas.
In a sauté pan, cook the chopped up bacon until it’s done to your liking. I guessed at the amount of bacon. Really, though, it’s bacon. The more the merrier! When bacon is done, transfer it to a paper towel if you want to be healthy, or just go ahead and put it into the bowl with the rice and beans. Use the bacon fat to then lightly cook the celery and onion, just long enough to take the edge off, but to still leave some crispness to them for texture. If you prefer, you can just skip the cooking part all together with the celery and onion and add them in raw. That works, too. When they’re at the stage that you want, add them into the rice and bean mixture and then give it a good stir to mix it all up. Add in a dash or so of Tabasco and some vinegar or lemon juice to make it pop a bit. Season with salt and pepper, but you probably won’t really need any salt.
I don’t follow a specific recipe, so my version may be different from others. It’s not a hard and fast rule with any of the amounts, either. Just do it to your own preferences and tastes and enjoy!