History on Hoppin' John is all over the place. There are about a gazillion different versions of how the dish got its name and why it's supposed to bring good luck. However, the basic overall idea behind the tradition is that if you eat black-eyed peas along with greens on New Year's Day you will have good luck and prosperity over the coming year. The peas represent coins and the greens represent cash. And if you serve it with cornbread, as I plan to do, that represents gold. In this economy, it's awfully hard to argue with that!
I simply started by looking at a ton of recipes on the internet, and ended up with 6 different windows open with recipes I was interested in. In the end, I created my own by picking from here and there - a jalepeño from this recipe, ham hocks from another, and andouille sausage from yet another. I substituted kale for the traditional collard greens for accessiblity here in the Pacific NW as well as previously mentioned adoration of kale. (And I vigorously eliminated green peppers whenever I saw them, YUCK!) Since I have never had a traditional version before, I can't honestly say if mine is on the mark or not. However, it is spicy and delicious, and that's enough luck in itself!
Hoppin' John Soup
Recipes were quite varied on soaking the beans, some said soak overnight and others said you didn't need to soak at all. I split the difference, and soaked them about 4 hours - putting them in the water in the morning and then cooking the rest of it that afternoon. Easy enough.
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
12 oz. andouille sausage links, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
2 smoked ham hocks
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium jalepeño, seeds removed, finely diced
1/2 t. dried thyme
2 t. red pepper flakes
1 t. paprika
2 bay leaves
16 oz. package of dried black-eyed peas, picked through, soaked for 4 hours, and rinsed
2 t. salt
10 cups water
1 bunch kale, center ribs removed, chopped
2 T. cider vinegar
1 t. tabasco (or more, to taste)
Add 1 T. olive oil to heavy-bottomed soup pot and heat over medium heat. When hot, add sliced andouille sausage. Sautee about 1-2 minutes per side, until sides crisp a bit and some of the fat has rendered. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon, leaving oil in pan. Cool a bit, then store in fridge for later.
Add the 2 ham hocks and sear on all sides, around 4 minutes or so, until they brown. Remove from pot and set aside. At this point you should have some lovely brown fond at the bottom of your pot.
Add in the diced onions and cook until they start to soften, stirring often to get the fond up from the bottom of the pot and coat the onions, around 5 minutes or so. Add in the garlic and sautee briefly, 30 seconds, then add the carrots, celery, and jalepeño. Sautee 3 or 4 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften, then add the spices: paprika, thyme, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves. Stir and sautee until all the vegetables are well-coated with the spice mixture.
Add the ham hocks back into the pot along with the black-eyed peas and add the water and salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the soup for about an hour or so, or until the black-eyed peas are just tender.
Remove the ham hocks from the soup, let them cool a bit, then remove the meat from the hocks, cut into bite-size pieces and add it back to the soup. Stir in the vinegar, the tabasco, the kale, and the andouille sausage and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or so or until the kale is wilted.
Eat with positive thoughts of the year to come!