We could all use a little good luck to kick off the new year—platefuls of it, in fact. Good thing eating “lucky” on New Year’s Day is a worldwide tradition. Because so many people link prosperity with luck, if it looks like money—coin-shaped legumes and breads, green greens, silvery fish—you can bet somebody’s eating it on New Year’s Day. In America’s Southern states, black-eyed peas are the lucky-food favorite. Cooked up with pork (or smoked turkey necks) and served over rice with greens, the peas become Hoppin’ John, downhome delicious, and lucky good.
For Hoppin’ John
1 16-ounce bag black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed to remove any impurities
2 large white onions
2 smoked ham hocks OR 2 smoked turkey necks
6 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey stock
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 head of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil (or canola oil)
A few slices of ham or cooked bacon (optional)
Follow package instructions to prepare your favorite long-grained rice.
For the Greens
1 10-ounce bag mature spinach, kale, mustard greens or collards rinsed well
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons oil
Dash of vinegar (I like balsamic)
Dash of red pepper (I like to use Aleppo pepper–pungent, but less spicy then red pepper flakes)
For the cornbread
1 10-inch cast iron skillet
1 10-inch round of parchment paper
1 ½ cups medium-grind, stone-ground cornmeal
2 Tbsp. dry milk powder
1 ½ cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
½ fresh lemon to make
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs ¼ cup honey
2 Tbsp molasses (I use Grandma’s brand original, unsulfured)
3 Tbsp melted butter OR melted bacon fat, plus 1 tablespoon soft butter to grease cast-iron skillet
Vinegar-based hot sauce
Snipped scallions or finely diced white onion
Make Hoppin’ John: Soak the beans in 4 cups of water overnight in the refrigerator. Drain the water. Place the soaked beans in a pot and add one of the large onions (quartered into chunks), and the ham hocks or turkey necks. Add the turkey or chicken broth. Heat to boiling; immediately reduce heat to maintain a low simmer and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until beans are tender but not mushy. Pluck out the ham hocks and onion; set aside to cool.
Make the mix-in for Hoppin’ John: Dice the remaining onion and entire head of garlic (about eight cloves). Warm the oil in a heavy-gauge saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for three minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water or chicken broth to the mixture and cook until soft. Remove to a bowl. Wipe out the saute pan. Once the onion and ham hocks from the bean pot are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the ham hocks and dice along with the bean pot onion and add them to the onion and garlic mixture you reserved in the bowl. Add extra diced ham or bacon if desired. Season lightly with pepper. Stir back into the beans. Set aside, keeping warm.
Make Cornbread: Position baking rack to center of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal with dry milk power. Measure cake flour, baking powder, soda and salt into a flour sifter; sift into the cornmeal/dry milk mixture and stir all dry ingredients with a fork or whisk until evenly mixed. In a separate bowl, combine milk with lemon juice; allow to rest for two minutes to thicken. Whisk eggs into the lemon-milk; stir in honey, molasses and melted fat. Using a fork, stir wet ingredients into the dry just until combined, and no molasses streaks remain. Set aside.
Cut a round of parchment-paper to fit into the bottom of 10-inch skillet. Grease the sides of the skillet and the parchment paper well with butter. Spoon batter into skillet. Bake in 350 degree oven for 35 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven. Slide a knife around the inside rim of the skillet to loosen cake from sides of the pan. Invert cornbread cake onto a plate to remove it from the skillet. Peel off and discard the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake. Invert cake a second time onto a serving platter, or cutting board. Slice and serve hot with butter and molasses or honey.
Make the greens and rice: Prepare rice according to package ingredients. While rice is cooking, prepare greens. Remove and discard all of the ribs and stems from the greens. Cut greens into ribbons. Heat the oil in heavy saute pan with garlic cloves until the oil shimmers. Remove and discard the garlic cloves. Add all of the greens by handfuls to the pan and toss/stir until the greens are cooked through but not completely limp. (You may wish to cook mustard and collard greens longer. Spinach and kale may be finished sooner.) Season to taste with a dash of vinegar and pepper. Note: Typical red pepper flakes are a nice addition, but I love Aleppo pepper here—pungent but a bit less firey.
Serve: For each serving, mound rice in bowls, ladle Hoppin’ John over rice, top with greens. Garnish with snipped scallions or finely diced white onion, and hot sauce. Serve with cornbread