Food - Drink
Hoppin' John: The Deceptively Complex Southern Comfort Food
By CLARICE KNELLY
The southern U.S. boasts some of the best comfort food in the world, and while fried chicken and pecan pie are familiar to many eaters inside and outside of the country, some southern specialties are best-known in their home region, such as Hoppin’ John. This is a short summary of this delicious lesser-known dish with a complex history.
Hoppin’ John is a blend of rice and black-eyed peas, served as a New Year's Day meal that is believed to bring good luck in the new year. The dish dates back to Antebellum kitchens, and the original Hoppin John' is difficult to recreate today, since its ingredients are either no longer around or have been significantly altered for modern use.
The original Hoppin’ John used bacon, peas, and rice, but these ingredients looked different back in the day. Old-fashioned bacon was cured for weeks and then smoked for at least 48 hours, giving it a deeper flavor, and the traditional rice to use was Carolina Gold, a breed that has become obsolete in modern mass production of grains.
Luckily, a modern (and still delicious) version of Hoppin’ John is a relatively easy one-pot meal that cooks in about 30 minutes. To make it, brown your bacon (or meat of your choice), then discard most of the fat and drain the meat on a paper towel; then, sauté your vegetables of choice in the remaining drippings until tender.
Once your veggies are cooked, add rice, water, and seasonings, then cover, simmer, add the black-eyed peas and meat, and finally, simmer the pot for a little longer to finish. If you want to keep your rice separate from the other ingredients, try ladling the meat and veggies onto the rice afterwards, rather than cooking them with the rice.