Hoppin' John


Serves 4 generously

Hoppin' John is the pre-eminent rice and pea dish of the Western world, a nutritional marvel, the culinary touchstone of the African diaspora and a hangover remedy without equal.  In the American South its traditionally consumed on New Year’s Day and guaranteed to bring 365 days of good luck!

2 smoked ham hocks, about 2 pounds
1 bouquet garni: 1 celery rib, 4 thyme sprigs, and 1 bay leaf tied together with twine
2 large onions, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup long grain rice
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
4 cups frozen black-eyed peas or 2 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Hot pepper sauce, to serve

Put the ham hock in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover. Slowly bring to a boil over high heat, skimming the surface as necessary. Reduce the heat to low, add the bouquet garni, half the onions and the hot pepper. Re-cover the pan again and simmer for 2½ hours, or until the meat is very tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.  
Place a colander over a large heatproof bowl and strain the cooking liquid. Reserve the liquid and set the ham hock aside to cool.  Note:  Can be prepared 1 day in advance. Chill the meat until ready to use.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole over a medium heat. Add the remaining onions and cook for 5 minutes until softened but not browned, stirring occasionally. Add the rice, tomatoes, 2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid, the peas and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the meat from the ham hock and cut into large chunks; discard skin and bones.

Remove the casserole from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, covered. Use a fork to stir in the ham. Pile the mixture onto a large serving platter, top with parsley and serve with hot pepper sauce on the side.

John Ash © 1999

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