Crockpot Hoppin’ John

2016-01-01 18.58.31RECIPE #158, DAY #188

ORIGINAL RECIPE: Actually, none*

TIMING: 8 1/2 hours, most spent away from the kitchen

DIFFICULTY: Easyish

TOOLS: A slow cooker/crockpot and something to cook the bacon (like a skillet or roasting pan with insert)

COOK TYPE: Slow cooker/crockpot

HEALTH: This is a great way to start the new year: a pot of Southern beans and rice. In one pot, you have your grain, your protein, and veggies (including your greens), as well as a warming broth. You can even leave out the bacon and just feel super hearty and accomplished.

EXPERIENCE: I have lived in the South for my entire adult life. Over the years, we have melded into a sort of North-South mash of traditions, experiences, and personality. I find that I even embrace some of the local traditions that the newer generations have let slide. Of course, I am a bit obsessed with food traditions, so my kids don’t see a New Years Day pass by without a heaping bowl of Hoppin’ John–even when we’re in Syracuse and I have to make it with white beans, pancetta, and kale. The dish is supposed to impart good luck and longevity for the new year. (So, I’m not superstitious, but I am a traditionalist.)

This year, I made sure to have my black eyed peas, pork side meat, and greens in the grocery cart, but I neglected to give the meal any other thought before I was standing in the kitchen on New Years Day. I had a lot on my (metaphorical) plate, so I looked over at the Slow Cooker and smiled. Then I threw everything in the pot and walked away.

8 hours later, we had Hoppin’ John. In the end, ours was too thick and mushy, so I have made some alterations for you. Otherwise, it was a pretty good rendition, considering that many of the versions I have tasted are on the boring side. Next year, I might try a slightly up-town version. Or not.

NOTES: Yes, Hoppin’ John is definitely supposed to have three main ingredients: black-eyed peas, pork side meat, and collards. However, I am allergic to collard greens. Therefore, we have always made our collard dishes with kale. If you want to use collard greens instead, I’m pretty sure you can just substitute directly here. Make sure with the kale that you remove the stems as part of your “trimming.”

This is what you call a Dump Dinner. Dump Dinners are super popular right now, because they involve no cooking besides what happens in your slow cooker as you work or lay about. Keep tuned in here, as I am soon going to try one of those 92 Dump Dinners in 1 hour (exaggeration) frozen slow cooker meals thing-ys.

I prefer my Hoppin’ John more soupy and less porridge-y. Adjust recipe according to taste, at least after trying it the first time.

I also thought that the rice overcooked in the slow cooker. In the future, I think I would either make the rice separate and stir it in near the end, or cook the Hoppin’ John on the stovetop. I don’t know: I might give it one more try.

This could easily be made with brown rice. It would stand up to it.

I am not alone in disliking pork side. It’s just flabby and baryard-y, so I remove mine once cooking with it. If you don’t feel the same way, you are welcome to dice it up and keep it in the stew. I have also added bacon to augment the pork flavor in an otherwise sort of bland dish. A squeeze of lemon or splash of apple cider vinegar would be nice to up the dimensionality, as well.

***

  1. In the insert of your crockpot or slow cooker, place 8 cups chicken broth, 1 cup long grain white rice, 1/2 pound pork side meat, 1 bunch trimmed kale,  4 sliced ribs of celery, 1 chopped onion, 3 sliced carrots, 2 cans drained black-eyed peas, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and ground black pepper. Stir.
  2. Cover and cook for 8 hours on low.
  3. Meanwhile, when close to dinner time, cook 8 slices of bacon. (I roast mine.) When crispy, crumble and set aside.
  4. When Hoppin’ John is ready, taste for salt and pepper and also texture and moisture. Serve hot topped with crumbled bacon and minced parsley and optional minced thyme.

Serve as the centerpiece in a New Years Day feast, or else very unpretentiously with a cup of apple cider or moonshine.

*Recipe changed from the original.

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