Sunday, February 20, 2011

Things are hoppin'

Hoppin' john

I'm always up for taking on a classic. If I can combine that with trying some new kitchen activity, all the better. Adding checkmarks in each of those boxes, Hoppin' John fit the bill perfectly. This traditional Southern dish has been on my radar for a long time, but as it's traditionally served on New Years Day for luck, I never felt compelled to stray from date (who wants bad luck combined with beans?). This year, New Years Day came and went. I decided doing it a week or two late wouldn't hurt my chances for a prosperous new year too badly.

After reading up on the dish, I was a little apprehensive: there were lots of warnings of blandness and I had never cooked beans from a dried state before. Combining recipes from Gourmet and America's Test Kitchen, I threw my ham hock in a pot of water, added my overnight-soaked beans, and marvelled at how grim the greyish sluice I placed in the oven looked. Fast forward a few hours when it came time to taste it. Amazing!

In an effort to keep things within the spirit of the dish, we paired the beans with some brown rice, collard greens with bacon and onion, and fresh-baked cornbread. Dousing the lot with copious amounts of Cholula, it was a winning meal. There were leftovers for days, and I enjoyed every bit of them.

Hoppin' John
serves 6 to 8
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook and The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

1 pound (2 1/2 cups) dried black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
2 meaty ham hocks (about 2 pounds total)
9 c water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 slices bacon, chopped coarse
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
black pepper

Soak peas in cold water to cover by 2 inches, refrigerated, for at least 8 hours. Drain in a colander and rinse well.

Combine ham hocks and water in a deep 3 1/2 – 4 quart saucepan, bring to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, until meat is tender, about 1 1/2 – 3 hours. Transfer hocks to a cutting board and measure broth. If you have more than 6 cups: boil until reduced to 6 cups. If less, add enough water to measure 6 cups.

When hocks are cool enough to handle, remove meat, discarding skin and bones, and chop.
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 min. Stir in the onions and and 1 teaspoon salt and continue to cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the water, scraping up the browned bits. Stir in the black-eyed peas, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Bring to a boil.

Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake, stirring every 30 minutes, until the peas are tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove the lid and stir in the ham. Continue to bake uncovered until the liquid has thickened, about 30 minutes.

Discard the bay leaves, Let the peas sit for 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce.


  1. Thanks G, this looks mighty tasty. I too, have yet to soak beans overnight, preferring to crack a can instead. But a new bulk store just opened across our way and in an effort to expand my world, i too, hope to start soaking up some new dishes with beans, of course.