Southern comfort food

January 17, 1999|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,Universal Press Syndicate

Hoppin' John is a time-honored dish in the American South. Originating most probably in the Caribbean, this combination of black-eyed peas, rice, bacon and onions has become an enduring classic of Louisiana creole and low-country Carolina cuisine.

It's economical, easy to prepare and can be doubled or tripled to feed a crowd. But the best thing about this humble dish is that it's comforting, a delicious reminder of just how good plain, honest food can be. Serve the recipe below with your favorite greens dish.

Copyright Cole Publishing Group

Hoppin' John

Serves 6 to 7

1 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas (about 1/2 pound)

6 strips bacon, diced

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup long-grain white rice

2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

salt and pepper

dash of Louisiana-style hot sauce

1/2 cup minced green onions, including tops

3 tablespoons minced parsley

Pick over peas and rinse well; cover with 3 cups of cold water and let stand overnight.

Drain peas, discarding water, and place in a large pot. In a separate pan, saute bacon until crisp; add it to peas, reserving rendered drippings. Add onion, salt and 2 cups water. Bring just to a boil, lower heat and simmer until peas are tender, about 30 minutes (longer in high-altitude and hard-water areas). A small amount of cooking liquid should remain. If liquid is absorbed too quickly during cooking, add fresh water 1/4 cup at a time.

Cover rice with cold water. Bring to a boil, stir once, cover and lower heat to the barest simmer. Simmer rice for 20 minutes.

When peas are tender, add cooked rice to pot. Stir in 2 tablespoons reserved bacon drippings (or olive oil, if preferred), salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes longer so flavors mingle and rice absorbs some of the remaining cooking liquid. To serve, garnish with green onions and parsley.

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