Megan-simple hearty winter recipe: Hoppin' John!

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Samantha

hoppin john 1

I have to tell you, I was one of those people that never liked beans. The texture, the scent, the taste — yeah, none of that was appealing. Ever. But when my husband and I started running a cooking site where everything was meant to be simple and (relatively) inexpensive due to its influence, I realized it'd be prudent to have at least a couple bean recipes, even if they weren't my thing.

This recipe changed all that, though. I had never had black-eyed peas despite being from the American South (Georgia!) originally, and damn, I was missing out! They have a bizarrely delicious earthy taste that I encourage everyone to try at least once, especially cooked like this…

Hoppin' John is a traditional southern dish that is usually eaten on New Years' Day, because it's thought to bring good luck.

This serves about six people, or two if you're really in love with it (like me). To make it vegetarian, you could omit the ham hock and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, but I would definitely up the seasoning a bit. It's the ham hock that gives this recipe its depth.

Although it can be eaten on its own, it is best served over cooked rice (brown rice!) with plenty of the cooking liquid in the bowl to give it all a nice soupy consistency.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 onion
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 cups chicken broth — You can do half chicken broth and half water, too, without a huge loss in flavour (in my opinion). Honestly, I usually just dissolve two chicken bullion cubes in four cups of water and call it a day.
  • 1 ham hock — bacon also works, or salt pork.

Recipe:

hoppin john 2

Soak the black eyed peas in water overnight, or at least six hours ahead of time. Discard any beans that float. Rinse the beans.

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Dice onion, celery, and garlic fine, and saut├ę in butter for five minutes, or until onions begin to become translucent. Add beans and four cups chicken broth, then drop in your lovely ugly ham hock. Season with plenty of black pepper.

Bring the whole mixture to a boil, stirring once or twice, then cover and leave it to simmer for half an hour to forty-five minutes. Drool. This allows the beans to soften and the liquid to reduce substantially. (The simmering, not the drooling…)

hoppin john 1

You can remove the ham hock and attempt to cut off meat from it to add back in, but usually it's mostly skin, and that's a bit creepy.

It's not much harder than dropping some stuff in a pan and letting it cook down, so (*cough* Megan): TRY IT. I think you'll be surprised!

Plus, this shit smells delicious while cooking. It's one of those recipes that's better the next day, as well — when everything gets to meld.

  1. This sound delicious.

    I'm not sure where I could get a ham hock, do you think I could just brown some bacon in the pan and saute the onion, celery, and garlic in the grease? (And chop up the bacon to add back in of course)

    • I have made this recipe with bacon before, and it is equally delicious. Cooking the onion, celery, and garlic in the bacon grease sounds like new levels of AWESOME. Do it, please.

    • If you go looking for ham hocks, you'll be surprised how many places carry them and offer other pieces of meat you'd never expect! If you can call ahead to your local grocery store's meat department, they'll probably be able to tell you whether they carry ham hocks–and they might be willing to order a pack or two if you express interest. Usually a pack is around 6 or so, but different stores will bundle them different ways. You can always freeze them and use them as needed.
      Other uses? Braised collard greens, otherwise plain beans, black bean soup and tons of stews.

  2. "a cooking site where everything was meant to be simple and (relatively) inexpensive" … that sounds incredibly useful! Would it be inappropriate to request the link?

  3. Mmm, sounds good. FYI, for vegetarians or just if you don't have any ham hocks/bacon, my magic ingredient for stuff like this is liquid smoke. Several drops or to taste. Not as fabulous a taste, but reminiscent of the flavor that makes bacon addictive. Great in just about any soup, too.

  4. I've been doing a veggie version of this for years and I make it year round. Hoppin' John is fantastic and one of my easy go to dinners. If you can't get a ham hock lots of canned beans in the States come with ham or bacon mixed in. So that's an option too.

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