Hoppin’ John is a version of the black-eyed pea and rice soup/stew served in the South for New Year’s Day. The idea is that eating black-eyed peas and rice at the new year will bring good luck, health and wealth. I’m sure it was created long ago by enslaved African Americans and adopted, like so many other recipes, into “southern cooking.” I picked up the tradition in Charleston in the mid-’80s.
The only two required ingredients are the black-eyed peas and rice. Everything else is negotiable in any amounts according to your taste. This version uses meat. For a vegetarian version, substitute a smoked ancho pepper and/or smoky-flavored tofu for the smoked sausage; use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
Adjust all amounts according to your needs and want.
1 large onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced
2-3 ribs celery, sliced
1 large red or green sweet pepper, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
Garlic, up to 3 cloves, minced
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, and their juice
1 good-sized link of smoked sausage (I have used either turkey or regular) or kielbasa
Vegetable or chicken stock ( up to 8 cups)
Black eyed peas ( 2 cans, or dried – pre soaked, 2-3 cups)
Rice (about a cup)
Seasonings. (All to taste):
2 bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
Cayenne pepper, Tabasco sauce, and/ or Worcestershire sauce
Optional: I add one canned ancho pepper and some of the sauce for an added kick.
If using dry back-eyed peas, pre soak the way you usually do it. Cans, drain and rinse peas.
Sauté onions, carrots and celery in olive oil till soft.
Add sweet peppers and garlic, and sauté for a few more minutes. Don’t let the garlic burn.
Add tomatoes and juice from the can, stock, black eyed peas, and smoked sausage (vegetarian variant — smoked poblano pepper and/ or smoked tofu).
Add bay leaves, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper, plus any of the other spices you wish.
Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring and tasting occasionally.
*Note: I just noticed that if you threw in some shrimp at the last minute, you would basically have a version of jambalaya.