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Hoppin’ John: Black-eyed peas for New Year’s luck

My father, being a Texas boy (he used to say the best thing about being from Texas is being as far from it as you can get), loved black-eyed peas. I was never nuts about them, because Southern recipes overcook them to an unappetizing state of sogginess. But in my grown-up incarnation, I learned that they lend themselves to butter-braising very nicely. If you buy them fresh or frozen and cook them to just the far side of al dente, they can make a nice side dish. But first…in honor of New Year’s Eve, when black-eyed peas are said to bring luck to the celebrants, below is an authentic Hoppin’ John recipe, along with the best corn bread I know how to make.

Hoppin’ John

You need:
2 cups dried cow peas or black-eyed peas
1/4 pound salt pork or one meaty hamhock
2 cups cooked rice
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp butter

Ideally, you should soak the peas overnight. But if you’re getting a late start, cover the peas with water in a large pot; bring the water to a rolling boil and hold it there for one minute. Then turn off the heat and allow the beans to soak for one hour. (Skip this step if you’re starting with fresh or frozen black-eyed peas.)

Drain the soaking water and cover the softened peas with fresh water. Cook with the pork until the peas are tender, but be careful to keep them whole. Only a small amount of liquid should be left. When the beans are done, add the cooked rice and season to taste with salt, pepper, and butter; simmer another 15 minutes to combine flavors.

Serve with cornbread and butter. Add a nice green salad and you’ll have a full, healthful meal.


You need:
1/2 cup white flour
1 1/2 cups yellow or white corn meal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 up milk
1/4 cup cream
1/3 cup melted butter
more butter to oil the pan

Butter a 9 x 9-inch or 8 1/2 x 11-inch baking pan generously. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the pan into the oven to warm it while you’re combining the cornbread ingredients.

In a mixing bowl, stir all the dry ingredients together to combine well.

In another bowl, beat the eggs well with a wire whip or hand mixer. Mix in the milk and butter. Using a wooden spoon or the wire whip, mix these liquids into the dry ingredients; stir to combine thoroughly. Add the melted butter and combine well.

Pour the batter into the hot buttered baking pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until the cornbread pulls away from the surface of the pan. Serve with lots of butter and honey. Yum!

Yuppified Black-Eyed Peas

Here’s how I like them…

You need
1 bag of frozen black-eyed peas
a tablespoon or two of butter
herbs (fresh or dry) such as marjoram, oregano, or thyme: to taste
a little green onion
fresh parsley, if you have some around
salt and pepper, to taste
cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce, to taste

Bring a pan of water to the boil. Dump the frozen peas into the water and allow to cook a minute or two. Drain the peas in a colander. Toss the butter into the hot pan. When the butter’s melted, return the peas to the pan. Add some herbs, as desired; stir to combine. Cover the pan and allow the peas to simmer gently over low heat until they’re cooked to your taste. I like mine softened but not soggy. At the end of cooking, stir in a chopped green onion and, if you happen to have it, some chopped fresh parsley.

To serve, season with salt, pepper, and (if desired) cayenne or Tabasco sauce.

4 thoughts on “Hoppin’ John: Black-eyed peas for New Year’s luck”

  1. Around here, it’s really rare to find them fresh. But the Safeway carries them frozen. They’re in the frozen food case, along with (!!) collard greens.

    I haven’t seen these items until the past couple of years. It may be that Safeway is responding to our area’s changing demographics, which are beginning to lean toward more African-Americans. WhatEVER…having access to these goodies redounds to everyone’s benefit.

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