Hoppin’ John is classic low country cooking, having originated in South Carolina and probably with roots in African cuisine. I make mine with both thick country bacon and spicy Andouille sausage, but if you just wanted a nice vegetable forward dish, these could be omitted and the seasonings elevated.
Stories abound about how the name of this dish came to be. Some tales reference children “hopping happy” to see this meal coming their way, others speak to a crippled peddler who sold this food as a street vendor. One can only guess how Hoppin’ John became the lucky New Year’s Day meal of choice. Maybe it’s good for a hangover. This could be the year to find out!
HOPPIN’ JOHN / Serves 6 Generously
1/2 lb. thick bacon, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb. Andouille sausage
1 medium white onion, chopped fine
4 celery ribs, spiced medium
1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped
Chicken stock, if desired
1 bunch green onion, trimmed, chopped and set aside for garnish
1-1/2 uncooked long grain rice white or brown
Basil, thyme, cayenne, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste
1 or 2 cans (15 oz) of black eyed peas, rinsed and drained. It depends on the ratio you like, it’s a personal thing. You may also cook your beans from scratch if not pressed for time.
Cook bacon and sausage in a large cast iron skillet with a tight fitting lid, set aside, slice sausage when cool.
Combine and sauté all vegetables in the bacon grease, stirring in salt and seasonings. Stir in the rice to coat with the pan drippings and spices.
Cover with chicken stock to the first knuckle on your index finger (good Grandma tip…first knuckle for rice, second for beans)
Cover and cook until rice has absorbed all liquid and appears to be done. If you need to add a bit more stock, please do.
Then add in the rinsed beans, bacon and sausage, gently folding in.
Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes on a very low flame while preparing the side dishes or salad you’d like to have to accompany the rice and peas.
Top with lots of green onion and have the hot sauce handy!
Everyone is lucky since this is a highly nutritious one pot meal that’s also economical.
Here is a classic recipe my family always made at Christmas time for gift giving, the Toll House Cookie from Nestle, modified by me with more vanilla and chips.
I prefer to roast the walnuts ahead of time for additional depth of flavor. In fact, the batter may be doubled and saved in the fridge, then scooped and bake as desired. Makes 5 dozen melty chocolate chip cookies.
2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 TSP. Baking Soda
1 CUP Softened Butter
3/4 C White Sugar
3/4 Light Brown Sugar
1 TB Real Vanilla
2 Large Eggs
3 Cups Chocolate Chips
1 1/2 Roasted Chopped Walnuts, optional
Preheat oven to 375°
Sift / Combine all Dry Ingredients
Beat sugars, softened butter and vanilla together until well creamed
Add eggs gradually.
When well combined, begin to add dry ingredients.
Finally stir in nuts and chips.
Drop desired size onto an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake about 10 minutes or until browned around edges.
Cool on wire racks, then package for holiday cheer!
Have ready one unbaked pie shell, your favorite recipe
2 tb soft butter
1-1/2 cup chopped white onion, pinch of salt
2 cups fiddleheads, cleaned of all brown papery stuff, washed twice, drained and steamed until bright
2 cups shredded farmhouse sharp cheddar
Salt, pepper and freshly ground nutmeg
6 eggs, beaten well
1-1/2 cup half and half or light cream
Make a custard of the beaten eggs and cream. Set aside.
Saute the onion until lightly browned, add salt , pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Toss with the cooled, cooked fiddleheads.
Pile into the uncooked pie shell, top with the cheese.
Pour the custard over all, don’t overfill if the custard is too generous. Dust lightly with paprika.
Bake at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet for about 40 minutes or until puffed and set in the center.
Let it rest for a half hour before slicing. Goes well with a crisp salad.
It’s tradition to say Rabbit, Rabbit at the beginning of each month. I am not sure why.
But, truly in the springtime, a rabbit fricassee over wide noodles with a touch of woodland or garden herbs and grainy mustard transports me to in Paris in April.
Rabbit hasn’t caught on in popularity in America like in France. It tasted mild, much the same as poultry. Honestly, cutting up a rabbit is not harder than cutting up a chicken, once you get over the fact that it’s a rabbit. The technique is much the same: dredging in seasoned flour, a little sautéed shallot, turn once when brown, remove meat and deglaze with white wine, mustard and heavy cream or creme fraiche. Add in fresh chopped thyme, ramps or rosemary at the end to keep it bright.
Served over wide noodles with a big salad, one couldn’t ask for more on a blustery early spring day….for lunch, at a bistro in Paris!
Here is a recipe we prepared when I was a student at La Varenne, in Burgundy,France:
Lapin a la Moutarde
1 small, dressed rabbit, cut into 8 pieces.
Flour, salt and pepper…a little paprika for color
1/2 cup avocado oil
Combine the flour and seasonings, Dredge the rabbit in the flour and set aside. Heat the oil on a medium heat.
1 cup, chopped shallot
2 cups dry white wine, 2 cups rich chicken broth
1 TB whole grain mustard, 2 fresh thyme springs and fresh rosemary or chopped ramps or chives, added last..
1 pound of wide egg noodles, cooked al dente. Keep warm.
Fry the rabbit in medium hot oil, turning once until just cooked through, salt lightly, and set to drain on paper towels.
Pour off most of the oil, and sauté the shallot in the same pan, deglaze with wine and broth, check seasonings. Add the mustard and creme fraiche or heavy cream, and place rabbit back into the pan, cook covered over a low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. Stir occasionally and add more broth if it seems to need it.
When it’s time to serve, choose an impressive platter (make it warm). Add the noodles and top with the rabbit pieces. Taste the gravy and add more creme fraiche and the herbs… give it a stir and pour over the rabbit and noodles. I add even more spring chives and their deconstructed blossoms to the top, to garnish.
Choose a crisp, white Burgundy and enjoy a hearty lunch with friends. Is that the Eiffel Tower I see?
The flavor profile in these is reminiscent of some of my favorite foods from China, although I am told by a close friend who lived for a time in China, Dr. Jane Liedtke, the Egg Roll is as American as it gets. More traditionally, Peking duck is wrapped in a “bing”, or wrapper with Hoisin sauce, scallion, etc. for a delicious part of the duck dinner. These egg rolls stand in for us home cooks in America.
Supposedly, making the wrappers is as easy as making pasta. Also, you can purchase perfectly good ones to produce these. The filling is open to inspiration, I like a bit of star anise in mine.
FILLING INGREDIENTS | Makes a dozen
Shredded cabbage and carrot, to equal 2 cups
Mung bean sprouts, minced celery and green onion to equal 2 cups
2 cups cooked, shredded duck meat, chopped fine
1 large beaten egg, cooked and chopped
Season with a bit of garlic, star anise, salt , pepper, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil & Asian chili sauce to taste.
Dust with cornstarch, 1 tb or a bit more if it seems wet . Mix all together and let rest.
BUILD THE ROLLS
Make a slurry of cornstarch and water for sealing the sides of rolls
Each egg roll gets 3 tb of meat, egg and vegetable mixture.
Roll tightly, sealing the sides with the cornstarch mixture. Set aside.
PREPARE TO FRY EGG ROLLS
You will need a heavy fry pan, with high sides …or a wok. You will also need some sesame or avocado oil, your egg roll wrappers and plenty of paper towels.
We’re shallow frying these, so we don’t need really deep oil, just about 3 inches in the pan.
Preheat oil and add a few rolls at a time, do not crowd. Flip once to get a golden brown all over.
Drain and sprinkle with flaky salt.
We enjoy these right out of the oil with a Hoisin or Duck Sauce and very hot mustard!
I travelled in Chile in the winter, which is like Springtime there at the bottom of the world. Imagine fields full of lupine at Christmas!
Well, another harbinger of very early spring is the Black Hake that is well known and loved there. My experience of this delicious flaky white fish was at a street vendor.
I’d like to share a recipe similar to the one I tried and loved:
Pan Seared Black Hake with Pebre Sauce / Yield: 2 hearty servings
1 lb. hake filet
Salt & pepper to taste, avocado oil to fry in
Season with salt and fresh pepper, set aside.
Beforehand, prepare the pebre sauce (a chilean salsa), using a blender:
3 roma tomato
a bunch of stemmed, chopped cilantro
6 green onions
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red wine vinegar, equal part olive oil
salt, pepper and hot red pepper flakes
Using a food processor, pulse all ingredients and season to taste.
Set aside in the refrigerator, covered, until use.
Meanwhile, get a heavy iron skillet hot and heat the oil.
Gently, add the seasoned fish to the hot oil and fry it uncovered, turning once.
Top with the freshly made pebre sauce and serve with fried potatoes and a green salad.
2 lbs broccoli rabe, washed and tough stems removed, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 cups red cherry tomato, halved
1 pkg. sweet Italian sausage, sliced medium thick
1 lb cavatelli pasta
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
12 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
Salt, pepper ground, to taste
1/2 cup good shaved or grated Parmesan
Toss the tomatoes with oil and a bit of salt. On a sheet pan, in a hot oven, blister the tomatoes. Reserve the tomatoes, retaining as much pan juice as possible.
In a saute pan, cook the sausage over medium heat until well browned. Remove from pan, but save the pan drippings.
In a large covered saucepan of boiling salted water, blanch the rabe and garlic. Lift it from the water with a strainer and drain, but save that water for the pasta.
Combine tomato, garlic, rabe and sausage with salt and pepper and a little more of the olive oil, keep warm but not hot (to retain colors)
Bring the pot of vegetable water, covered, back to a boil. Add a teaspoon more salt and the pasta.
Cook pasta until al dente, drain (I always save a 1/4 cup for the sauce and the remainder for soup stock.)
While the pasta is cooking, use your 1/4 cup of pasta water to deglaze the sausage pan and add that flavor layer and any tomato drippings to your cooked ingredients.
Finally add the hot, drained pasta and the rest of the cooked, seasoned ingredients to a large bowl. Toss well and top with the Parmesan cheese.
This dish is good warm but don’t over do it. The beauty is the bright green rabe and bright tomato, equally good at room temperature or the following day.