Anatomy of a Classic

Hoppin’ New Year

Serves 6

Black-eyed peas, rice, and pork come together 
for a big helping of Southern tradition

photo: Johnny Autry


Resolutions tend to come and go, but
 Southerners have a more enduring New Year’s ritual—a bowl of hoppin’ John, served with a side of greens and the promise of prosperity. While folklore varies about the origins of this West African–influenced dish, a pork-flavored stew pot of rice and black-eyed peas, the symbolism stays the same: The beans represent coins, and the pork conveys optimism, because pigs forage forward and don’t look back. “During the years my family moved around the South, I had many versions of hoppin’ John,” says Stephen Stryjewski, an Army brat and now co-owner and chef of Cochon in New Orleans. “But it was living in the Carolina lowlands, where black-eyed peas and rice were historically grown in abundance, that I learned to understand and love the complexities of the dish.”

Stryjewski, winner of the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Chef: South, is known for his inventive takes on regional dishes. Though his restaurant version of hoppin’ John is more elaborate, at home he sticks to a traditional one-pot recipe, but with a South Louisiana twist or two. Drawing from his surroundings, the chef uses sustainably farmed Cajun Grain rice, a brown jasmine variety flecked with bits of wild red rice, along with the local pork specialty, Tasso ham, letting its spicy, smoky flavor seep into the pot. The one thing that doesn’t change? The lucky black-eyed peas. “I’ve had great fortune over the past few years,” Stryjewski says. “And if this is all it took, then everyone should eat a lot of hoppin’ John.”


Ingredients

  • Stage 1

    • 1 lb. dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over

    • 3/4 lb. Tasso ham, diced

    • 1 onion, halved

    • 3 cloves garlic

    • 3 bay leaves

  • Stage 2

    • 1/2 lb. bacon, diced

    • 1 onion, diced

    • 3 ribs celery, diced

    • 1 bell pepper, diced

    • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced

    • 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme

    • 1 cup Cajun Grain rice (or a good-quality long grain rice)

    • 6 green onions, sliced

    • 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

    • 1 tsp. coarse salt

    • 1 tsp. ground black pepper


Preparation

  1. For stage 1:

    In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine ingredients with 6 
cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until beans are tender but not mushy, 2 to
2 ½ hours. Drain the black-eyed peas and ham, saving cooking liquid separately. Remove and discard the onion pieces, 
garlic, and bay leaves.

  2. For stage 2:

    Wipe out the pot and return to stove over moderately high heat. Add bacon and render until golden (8 to 10 minutes), then add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and jalapeño. Using a wooden spoon, stir occasion-ally, cooking until onions look translucent (8 to 12 minutes). Add the thyme and 2 ½ cups water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, stir in the rice, cover, and simmer until the 
rice is tender, about 17 
to 22 minutes.

  3. Stir in the green onions, parsley, and black-eyed peas and ham, season with salt and pepper, and adjust the consistency with the reserved cooking liquid. The hoppin’ John should be lushly moist but not soupy.

Meet the chef: Stephen Stryjewski

Current restaurants: 
Cochon, Cochon Lafayette, Cochon Butcher (New Orleans)
On the menu: Braised pork cheeks with fresh field peas and spoon bread; charred onion hush puppies with pickled vinegar mayo; smoked beef brisket with horseradish potato salad
Food philosophy: High-quality products simply prepared
Outside the kitchen: “I enjoy gardening, and many early mornings and late nights are spent roaming about my yard, where I have persimmons, pomegranates, figs, a Meyer lemon tree, blueberry bushes, blackberry bushes, a satsuma tree, muscadine and Taylor grapes, and beds where I grow peppers, peanuts, tomatoes, eggplant, squash, okra, peas, beans, herbs, and lots of flowers.”


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