New Years Day And Jared’s Birthday

Over the last years we have tried to have a New Year’s Day Open House combined with a celebration of Jared’s birthday. Some years it works. Some years it doesn’t. This year it didn’t look like it was going to work but then it did. The traditional New Year’s Day good luck food is ‘Hoppin’ John’ (aka black-eyed peas) and is a Southern States tradition. Served with Collard greens and corn bread. I think it was Cindy Ripley (of Luna Garcia) who told me that where she comes from (Texas) the cabbage (Collards) represents the ‘bills’ as in dollar bills and the peas represent the coins. I’ll take it. You gotta have both. So… on Sunday I sent out Paperless Post Invites and the party was on. It was a sweet, lovely, wonderful crowd of our dearest friends (less those who I forgot to invite and I can think of who they are right now and I am SO SO SO embarrassed and sorry!) and I think everyone had a good time and enjoyed the food. Notably, two super special things happened at the party. First, Cindy Ripley (Luna Garcia) and Curtis Ripley (husband and wife) said that they really loved the Hoppin’ John and the Collards.

That was so awesome because Cindy is definitely without a doubt one of the best home cooks I know. She’s naturally talented and fearless in her cooking and sense of food taste and style. I have never in the 26- years that I have known Cindy eaten anything that she has cooked that hasn’t been extraordinary and delicious and that is true. The second super special thing that happened at the party was that Virginia Ripley Biondolilo (newly wed extraordinaire, poet, author, teacher, daughter of Luna Garcia, and most notably, wonderful, awesome, kind, loving, interesting, curious, beautiful inside and out, person in her absolute own right and one of my all time favorite people in the world) suggested that once a month she would come over, we would cook together AND WRITE THE BLOG TOGETHER which means that ONCE A MONTH we will have a literary blog! Now how cool is that?

I accepted and the offer and I can’t wait to implement. So for starters, here’s the recipe for Hoppin’ John both meat eaters and vegetarian.

Hoppin’ John

(- without attribution but from an amalgamation of a bunch of recipes I read and my own tweaks - there are loads of recipes on line)

Also, since I was cooking for a crowd I tripled the recipe and then made a double recipe of vegetarian Hoppin’ John

 Soaked peas

Soaked peas

 Finished food

Finished food

Ingredients:

1 pound dried black-eyed peas (soaked overnight and the nasty ones picked out)

2 ham hocks or knuckle bones or ham bones (for the vegetarian version leave this out)

2 medium to large onions (one diced and one quartered)

2 smallish cloves of garlic smashed and halved

1 bay leaf

4 long ribs of celery diced

1 can (14 ½ or so ounces) diced tomatoes with chile peppers (I used the kind with fire-roasted chile peppers)

1 jalapeno or habanero pepper (minced)

1 cup long-grain brown rice

2 tsp Cajun or creole or gumbo seasoning

1 tsp dried thyme leaves

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

8 green onions sliced thin

Directions:

In a Dutch oven or other large heavy bottomed pot combine the black-peas, ham bone or ham hocks, the quartered onion and the garlic and bay leaf, and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently until the beans are tender but not mushy. After about 20 minutes keep checking because the peas/beans go from being too firm to being mushy in the blink of an eye it seems. All of the recipes say that it takes 2 to 2 ½ hours but that must be for very old beans. You want to use FRESH dried beans. They cook much more quickly and are much more delicious in texture and flavor. It will take between 30 minutes and 2 hours. That’s your guide.

When the beans are done. Remove the ham hock and set aside to cool. Drain the peas and set them aside discarding the onion, bay leaf and garlic remnants.

When the ham hocks are cool, pull the meat off the bones and dice and set aside.

Next, add 2 ½ cups of vegetable broth (I usually use home made – recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman but in this recipe the stuff from a box is quite adequate and in fact water is also just fine). Add the rice, cover and simmer until the rice is almost tender but not quite. The length of time depends again entirely on the rice.

Add the diced onion to the rice. Then add in the black-eyed peas, canned tomatoes and their juice, celery, jalapeno/habanero pepper, creole/Cajun/gumbo seasoning, thyme, cumin and salt. Cook until the rice is tender but not over done. Stir in the sliced green onions and the diced ham from the hamhocks. Serve with hot sauce and of course corn bread. You’ll also want to make up a pot of collard greens and maybe some roasted pork and vegetables. But maybe you’ll just serve this on its own with cornbread and collards.

 Cooked

Cooked

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