New Year’s Day Food: How to Make Hoppin John


from the Ace editorial archives, 2001

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This take on how to make Hoppin’ John happens to be vegetarian, is a little non-traditional, and it is always a staple at the New Year’s Brunch table. First, because it’s lucky, and we all need that. Second, if better eating is one of your New Year’s resolutions, this recipe is shockingly healthy (and if you leave off the sour cream and cheese, it’ll average less than 200 calories per serving).

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Non-Traditional (but still lucky) Hoppin’ John

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You will need

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An assortment of your favorite dried legumes in equal parts (pre-soak them when you get home on New Year’s Eve):

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brown crowder peas

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black eyed peas

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black beans

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2 cups raw black rice (black rice is lucky)

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Pluto’s Caribbean Bliss (you can order it from Southern Seasons; you can substitute your favorite jerk spices)

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Any kind of coconut liquor (liqueur, um, whatever)

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bay leaves

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large yellow onion

several cloves garlic (preferably Blue Moon)

assorted dried hot peppers

You will not need

hamhocks (because that’s just disgusting, even if they are lucky)

For toppings

homemade salsa (or substitute your favorite brand)

chopped scallions

sour cream

hot sauce

shredded jack cheese

The night before, you have to “look” the beans and peas. Put them on a cookie sheet and sort out all the dust, rocks, pebbles, and any other extras that don’t seem to belong. Then dump the beans into a giant mixing bowl; fill to the top with water; soak overnight.

For brunch, get up at about 5 or 6 a.m. to put on the beans (or sleep in, and just serve them later for supper).

Bring them to a hard boil (uncovered) for about five minutes.

Squeeze one whole lime into the pot (then grate a little zest over the pot). Toss in a few bay leaves. Sprinkle with Caribbean Bliss (or your favorite jerk seasoning).

Add in about a quarter cup of coconut liquor or liqueur. Then take the pot down to a low simmer (covered) for several hours. Check periodically, and add water if needed. The longer they cook, the creamier they will get.

Prepare the black rice in a separate pot or rice cooker (according to the package directions).

In a separate skillet with a little olive oil, sweat the onion and garlic (“sweat” means until translucent; don’t brown) and hot peppers with bay leaves. Toss about half the contents of this pan into the beanpot. When the rice is cooked, throw it into the skillet with what’s left and stir thoroughly.

Some Hoppin’ John enthusiasts advocate cooking the beans and rice all together in one pot. You can do that, but it’s ugly.

Better to serve the rice in one big bowl, and the beans in a nice big tureen with a ladle (remove the limes and bay leaves, and garnish with fresh lime slices).

Let everyone help themselves from there, and pick the toppings they like — set it up like a little brunch bar buffet to make it easy on the hosts.

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