Test Kitchen - Hoppin' John

The latest Test Kitchen ingredient to grace the pages of the blog was a package of steamed black-eyed peas by Melissa's, and the suggestions that came through when we posed it centered on an upcoming Southern tradition. You see, there is a dish celebrated during the new year as an indicator of good luck and fortune upon the eater if enjoyed on January 1st. That would be hoppin' john and it is primarily a black-eyed pea and rice dish. How appropriate! So I got to reading about it and though the basic makeup requires just some onion, black-eyed peas, bacon, and rice, there is definitely more that can be added to make a superb one-pot dish for a whole lot to share. Check out the recipe and make some to bring prosperity to your friends and family!

Step 1: Ingredients (yields 6-8 servings)

  • 1.5 lb pork hock
  • 4 stalks celery, diced (~1 cup)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced (~1 cup)
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped with greens and whites separated
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced (~1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
  • 1 1/4 tsps blackening spices (see here for recipe)
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups black-eyed peas, steamed

Step 2: Prepping ingredients
Cover the bottom of a dutch oven (or large pot) with enough vegetable oil to coat the surface and turn to medium high heat. Place pork/ham hocks in pot and let it crisp up on all sides. Meanwhile, dice all vegetables. Once hock pieces have seared, add in celery, onion, whites of green onions, and bell pepper.

Step 3: Cooking rice
Some people serve their hoppin' john over rice but I wanted to bring it all together into a one-pot recipe. Add rice with blackening spices once vegetables start to turn translucent and let the grains soak up the vegetal juices. Add in garlic. Then add in broth and bring to a boil.

Step 4: Finishing
Lower heat to a simmer and cover pot. Because the black-eyed peas were steamed ahead of time, they will be the last ingredient added so as not to turn them into mush. Once rice has cooked, gently mix in black-eyed peas and greens from green onions, saving some for garnish. Enjoy!

The next Test Kitchen ingredient: wild rice
"Wild rice is actually a semi-aquatic grass that historically has grown in lakes, tidal rivers and bays, in water between 2 and 4 feet deep. The only grain native to North America, wild rice originated in the area of the upper Great Lakes in what is now both the U.S. and Canada. Commercial wild rice farmers "cure" the rice until the chlorophyl dissipates, then dry the kernel (still in its hull) using consistent, mechanical methods that impart its signature nutty, smokey flavor. After this, the inedible hull is removed, exposing the black wild rice kernel. Wild rice is slightly higher in protein than most other whole grains, and is a good source of fiber, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, Vitamin B6, and niacin." [Whole Grains Council]

In the past when I've had wild rice, I had always enjoyed it but it wasn't something that crossed my mind as being an ingredient I would eventually cook. The mixture of colors in wild rice once cooked is so fun, and the textures make you want more. What are your thoughts on what we should do with the wild rice? Leave us your suggestions!

Photography by Duc Duong.