Ever since the monumental Thanksgiving disaster of 2009, I haven’t planned a lot for the holiday.
Usually, we get together for a largely non-traditional dinner of chili and fixings (along with some ham, dressing and green beans for a degree of normalcy) at my niece’s house. I bring one thing, sometimes just the fixings for the chili.
A few months back, we decided at a family gathering that we’d do Thanksgiving in Charleston this year. We have extended family there, and we’d make an epic family-fest trip of it. I’d plan a simple-but-fab menu, go to the year-round farmers’ market, pull out all the stops. All the moms were on board.
Then, my mom bailed, then my mother-in-law.
My mom insists she can hang with friends this year, which seems silly, but whatever. We’re still going, at her insistence.
The menu in Charleston will probably include this, which I test-ran tonight: Hoppin’ John.
This traditional South Carolina dish is made with cowpeas there, which are similar to blackeyed peas but smaller. Tonight, I had some dry blackeyes in the pantry and some bacon in the freezer, so it made a delicious and inexpensive dinner. The hubs said at least three times, “Wow, this is really good!”
- 2 cups dry blackeye peas
- 6 rashers of bacon, diced
- One half yellow onion, small dice
- Three cloves garlic, minced
- 2 quarts chicken stock (guessing here)
- Two bay leaves
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Hot sauce of your choice
- 2 T. fresh rosemary, minced
For the rice:
- 1 1/2 cups brown rice
- 3 cups water or chicken stock
- 1 T. oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 T. fresh parsley, minced, plus extra for garnish
Soak the beans in cold water overnight, then rinse thoroughly in a colander.
In a heavy pot over medium-high heat, render the bacon until it is about halfway done, then add the onion. Reduce the heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, then add the garlic. Cook just until the garlic is fragrant.
Add the soaked beans, stir everything together, and cover the whole thing with chicken stock. I’m really not sure how much I used, since it was homemade stock in a big pot, but I’m guessing 2 quarts. Just use enough to cover the beans by about an inch. Add your bay leaves.
Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours. (Check your beans before this point; mine were a little soft.) I covered the pot slightly, but I’m not sure it really matters.
About 30 minutes into cooking the beans, combine the brown rice, stock or water, oil and salt in a small saucepan, bring to a low simmer and cover. This will take about 45 minutes to cook.
When the beans are done to your liking, remove most of the liquid. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper, hot sauce (if you want) and rosemary. Crush some of the beans with your spoon (or whatever) to thicken the remaining liquid and stir.
When the rice is done, mix in the parsley, then spoon about a 1/4 cup into the bottom of each serving bowl. Ladle the bean mixture over the top, and garnish with some more parsley. (Confession: my rosemary is still alive, but my parsley is not; today, I used the dreaded dry kind that I usually hate.)
I hope my Hoppin’ John comes out as well at my Charleston Thanksgiving this year!
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