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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Eat Poor

Happy 2007! We had the usual Southern New Year's Day food around here, if only because Ingles was pushing the collards and black-eyed peas so hard. (Unfortunately, the collards I tried to grow in the fall were too stunted and scrawny to bother picking; turns out that our soil's nitrogen content, on a scale of zero to 6, is zero. Will try again next year.)

How do you make hoppin' john? This is how I've been making it since I lived in Queens and ate poor all year round, but other peoples' versions are different. Mine is much more flavorful than others I've tasted, but it looks kind of awful.

Cornbread muffin, hoppin' john, and collard greens. Vinegary hot sauce.
Hoppin' john: Sorry these measurements are so vague; this is just for technique, and for comparison's sake if anybody cares. Rinse and pick through 1/2 pound dried black-eyed peas. Put in a pot with water to cover by several inches; bring to a boil, cover, and let soak for 1 hour. Drain and rinse again. In a large pot, cook about 6 strips bacon until crisp; remove the bacon from the pot, set aside, and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Add 1/2 chopped onion to the fat and cook over medium heat until softened. Add the black-eyed peas and enough water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until almost tender. Dump several handfuls of long-grain white rice into the pot with the black-eyed peas. Stir in several good pinches of salt and lots of black pepper. If there's enough water left to cook the rice, just bring it to a boil, then cover the pot and lower the heat to low; cook until the rice is done and all the water is absorbed. If not, pour in a little more water before adding the rice. Fluff everything up, taste for seasonings, then crumble the bacon into the pot and gently fold it into the black-eyed peas and rice. It reheats really well in the microwave (see photo above), or you can mold it, cold, into patties and pan-fry them. I think most people cook the peas and rice separately, which would result in a prettier, fluffier dish. But this is how I like it, sticking together in clumps.
I used smoked pork neckbone in the greens instead of hocks, and I don't know why more people don't do this—the neckbone is so much meatier, the meat is easier to get off the bone, it's less fatty, and it's usually cheaper than hocks. You can use just a couple small pieces of the neckbone if you want.

The bug appears to have a bit of a cold, and her dad definitely has one, despite all the potlikker. I blame the plane ride from hell.


Mary Jessica said...

hmmm...I wonder if spinach counts as greens. We usually do the black-eyed peas and collard greens bit, but we ate dinner courtesy of my mom yesterday, and spinach it was.

I really enjoyed reading about your northwestern Christmas adventures! I wonder if Tommy will ever see snow? I certainly haven't seen any in years. Thanks, global warming. Thanks a lot.

Also, where in the heck is your family from? From reading the stunning and intriguing array of exotic-sounding food that your family happened to have on hand (so casually mentioned as if every family whipped out loads of vaguely foreign sounding cookies each holiday - we should be so lucky! Gee, guess that's why you write cookbooks, duh), I would guess that you hail from some rich cooking tradition that has its roots somewhere else than this country. Am I totally wrong and stupid and oafishly naive sounding? By the way, I apologize for constructing the too-long sentence above.

barefoot baker said...

Delicious. First time we ever ate hoppin. Very satisfying. Perfect on a rainy, foggy day.