Hoppin’ John and Johnny Cakes

I love it when a dish comes with a side plate of history.

Hoppin’ John is one of those dishes. In the Deep South, this stew made with black eyed peas is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day because it is believed to bring good luck throughout the rest of the year.

There are all sorts of rituals that come with this practice, including leaving a coin under the bowl or even in the stew itself, or counting the number of peas to see how many lucky days you will have during the coming year, or leaving three peas in the bowl at the end of the meal — one for luck, one for money and one for love.

Whew! But that’s not all. Hoppin’ John is usually served with brasied collard, turnip or mustard greens because they are the color of money, and with corn bread because it is the color of gold.

Finally, leftover Hoppin’ John is eaten again the following day — only this time it is called Skippin’ Jenny — to show how frugal you are.

The name Hoppin’ John may refer to a legendary character, or it may simply come from the Creole French for black eye peas, “pois pigeons”. No one knows for sure.

Back in the northern states, our food rituals are not nearly as interesting. Johnny cakes are what people from New England used to call corn bread around the time of the Revolutionary War. Because they would stay edible even during a long day’s journey on horseback, with the flat, nasal Yankee accent “journey cakes” became “johnny cakes.”

I may have been a couple of weeks late with this dish, but I hope it brings me luck for the rest of this year!

Hoppin’ John

4 TBS unsalted butter

1 white onion, medium dice

1 green pepper, ribs and seeds removed, medium dice

2 stalks of celery, ribs and leafs included, medium dice

3 cloves garlic, crushed

4 cups dried black eyed peas (soaked 6 hours)

32 oz chicken stock

1/2 lb sausage (any kind, your choice, I used chorizo)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 TBS red wine vinegar

Rice or bulgur, cooked

1. Soak black eyed peas in cool water for at least 6 hours to soften. Rinse before using.

2. In pot, melt butter then add onions, pepper, and celery and cook until onions translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove sausage from casing, add to pot, break apart and cook until brown, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute or two.

3. Add black eyed peas, chicken stock and seasonings and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over rice with braised greens and corn bread on the side. Good luck!

What recipes do you make that come dripping with history? Share your story in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!