Not on my watch…

Hey, black eyed peas may or may not be the magic harbinger of happiness and good luck … but I figure, why chance it!

Since my earliest recollection my dad started our family off every New Year with black eyed peas somewhere on the dinner table. Sometime around my high school years he settled on Hopp’n John as our New Year’s dinner standard and too many years later it remains our family tradition.

It may not look like much (at least in my mediocre photos) and god knows it’s a simple dish, but I think both of those attributes are part of the magic. There’s no pretense, no attempt at elegance … it is pure soul food in both heritage and effect.

Nothing easier … nothing better…

Hopp’n John is dead easy to prepare — virtually any reasonably balanced assembly of pork product, aromatics (onion, bell pepper but no celery), black eyed peas and white rice qualify. Options abound on this dish but I have found my sensibilities moving more toward simplicity of late.

Yeah, it doesn't look like much ... but man it tasted great!

Down through the years I’ve made versions with salt pork, bacon, ham hocks, cooked ham of all sorts — even pancetta … settling on a combo of fat rendering pork up front, and some meaty ham at the back end. Check out my recipe on the VSGuy Recipe page. In the end, go with what you like and seems right (just preserving the balance of pork, rice and peas … strive for simplicity) and you won’t go wrong.

You really can’t go wrong … well, unless you forget the jalapeño hot sauce condiment  which is NOT an option at our place! I used to try to cook in the jalapeños but the heat can get away from you and it gets even more intense with the glorious leftovers (H-John freezes and reheats beautifully).

Two more H-John dinners and a lunch put back ... yeah!

I’ve found it’s better to take a light hand on the heat I cook into the dish and hit it to taste with Trappy’s or other hot sauce at the table.

Up to Seven “John”s…

We listened to the playlist that emerged from all those John/Jonny/Johnny reviews last summer — Six Guys named John (Jon) — while cooking off the Hopp’n John … it just seemed like the right thing to do! Mercer, Blu, Pizzarelli, Mathis and the gang got along fine, sang great and loved the food. Actually Johnny Mathis is a cooking enthusiast — it would be cool to get his Hoppi’n John recipe.

New Year’s Day has passed but it’s not too late … cook off some Hopp’n John and ensure your luck for 2012!