Hoppin’ John, a traditional southern black-eyed pea stew with collard greens for a lucky New Year. If you travel through the South on New Year’s Day, you may find black-eyed peas on the breakfast table. If you do, be sure to take a big helping for good luck. According to Southern folklore, if these legumes are the first thing you eat in the New Year, you will have luck and prosperity throughout the year. Both of my parents grew up in Alabama, but this tradition was news to me. I did some research and it seems the black-eyed peas’ association with luck dates back to the Civil War. This was a big crop in the South, first planted as food for livestock and later as a food staple for slaves. When Sherman swept through, his soldiers destroyed and stole all crops, but left black-eyed peas behind. Survivors subsisted on this nourishing food, and would likely have perished without it. Truthfully, even without this backstory, legumes are considered lucky because of their resemblance to coins. But black-eyed peas aren’t the only reason this Hoppin’ John dish, a traditional black-eyed pea and pork stew served over rice, might be the luckiest thing you make all year. First, the rice, which represents abundance for obvious reasons. Next, the collard greens; greens represent paper money or folded bills. If you include pork in your portion, like my husband, you get an extra dose of luck since pigs root forward and are rotund. And not taking any chances with 2014, I took the added precaution of making some cornbread, which represents the wealth of gold. So if you’re interested in having a lucky 2014, have this dish on New Year’s Day. Ideally for breakfast, if you listen to Southern tradition, so feel free to add a fried egg on top. I hope you all have a very lucky 2014.
Black-eyed peas and black-eyed beans are the same legume. The dried chipotle pepper ingredient adds a distinctive smokiness to the stew and is a great flavor substitute for the pork. This dish can easily be made vegan by eliminating the cheddar cheese or substituting vegan cheese. For a strictly vegetarian stew, be sure to use cheddar cheese made with a vegetable rennet. Several are now available, and worth checking out. Rennet is used to coagulate (thicken) milk during the cheesemaking process so that curds form. Animal rennet comes from enzymes extracted from the stomach lining of a calf, ewe or kid (baby goat), something I was recently made aware of thanks to one of my readers here. Thanks Juls! Whole Foods is a great place, but not the only place, to look for alternatives that use vegetable rennet.
I left the pork out of my vegetarian portion. But for Myles, the Carnivorous Maximus, I chopped up six or seven pieces of pancetta and fried them up. I divided the soup in half, and added his half to the bacon. A better option for omnivores is adding a smoked ham hock to the beans as they cook.
If you want to move to a more vegetarian diet, but not sure the best steps to take, join the Monthly Vegetarian Meals Challenge. Each month I’ll post some tips – great plant protein sources, must-haves for the vegetarian pantry, ways to build flavor, and more. Additionally, we tackle 1 – 3 seasonal recipes tied to the theme that month. Subscribe to Monthly Vegetarian Meals Challenge.
- 32 ounces vegetable broth
- 1 dried chipotle pepper
- 1 ½ cups dried black-eyed peas or beans
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion sliced (about 2 cups)
- ¼ cup diced carrots
- 1 red pepper diced (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2 celery stalks including any leaves (about ½ cup)
- 1 Serrano pepper seeded, minced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 3 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 2 large sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tsp mustard
- ½ tsp Hungarian paprika
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp celery salt
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
- 3 cups stemmed and sliced collard greens
- ¼ cup thinly slices scallions
- ¼ cup sharp cheddar cheese
- 4 cups of cooked rice
- Bring the broth to a simmer in a large heavy pot. Add the dried chipotle pepper and black-eyed beans. Cover and simmer on low until the beans are tender, about 3 hours.
- While the beans are cooking, heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion slices, carrots, red pepper, celery, and Serrano, and sauté for 20 minutes, or until the onion begins to lightly brown. Add the garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes.
- Add the vegetables to the soup pot, and stir into the beans. Add the vinegar to the sauté pan and scrape up any cooked bits. Add to the soup pot.
- Add the thyme, mustard and all of the spices except the salt. Simmer until beans are very tender. Add the salt.
- Ladle the soup out into bowls, and top each bowl with one tablespoon scallions and one tablespoon cheddar cheese
- Serve over rice with a side of cornbread.