Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year Foodies!

Hoppin' John in the new slow cooker simmering away...
This is the year for new beginnings, I've decided. Whether these are personal, professional, or just things never attempted - this is the year to do it!

So, in light of that, for this New Year's Day celebration - this dyed-in-the-wool Northerner prepared Hoppin' John, a Southern tradition featuring black-eyed peas.

For those like me, who've never had it, but have heard tell of this Low Country favorite, it assumes some magical qualities. In all the books and articles I've read recently about New Year's celebrations, Hoppin' John featured in some of them.

So, trying new things, I decided to gather recipes from all over - Google, cookbooks, friends on Facebook - and then make one my own. (Yes, I tweak and play with everything!)

For Christmas I was gifted with a new slow cooker as my elder one of twelve plus years finally gave up the ghost. So, why not make Hoppin' John in the slow cooker? (And then he wouldn't be able to jump too far, right?)

Since the main ingredient is black-eyed peas, I purchased a one pound bag of dried peas (Goya, if you're curious) and then soaked them in water till they tripled in size (about ten plus hours). My next step was to chop very finely approximately three slices of bacon and get that slow cooker sizzling on high. Once the bacon went in, so did a finely chopped onion and seven small cloves of garlic. I seasoned it with about a teaspoon of salt, a dash of Bell's seasoning (I love this mixture-it's really not just for Thanksgiving), and some paprika (I'm Hungarian, paprika finds it's way in everything!). While that simmered, I drained and rinsed the peas; opened a can of diced tomatoes; chopped some pickled jalepenos slices (about 10-15); five roasted red peppers; and three slices of ham. Once the onions were clear, I added the peas, peppers, ham, and tomatoes in along with a quart of chicken stock and a cup of dry rice. Stirred it once or twice, turned it to low, and let it simmer overnight.

Ah, the aroma that greeted me this morning 1 January 2014 was remarkable. As I made my way into the kitchen, I almost convinced myself that my Hudson Valley house had been transplanted to the Carolinas or Louisiana . . . it just smelled Southern and filled with down home comfort.

After letting the Hoppin' John simmer a little longer with some stirring action going on, I added chopped kale to the mix and turned the slow cooker down to "warm." (This is a really great new feature my old one did not have.) While all that goodness was melding together, I prepared some hot & sweet cornbread (I use a little honey, some red pepper flakes, and some dried cranberries to add a little extra to the recipe.)

Oh my, when that cornbread came out of the oven, not only were friends lining up for this New Year's dish, but so were all my four-legged friends. Not only did they go back for seconds, but third servings were seen as bowls were filled and cornbread sliced.

I do have a little left over, but not as much as I anticipated. But that's what I like to see. Food, to me, is a way to serve a little comfort. Friendship and love are as much part of the ingredient list as anything I mentioned earlier. So what a fabulous start to the New Year!

I do hope you'll join me on the adventure that this New Year offers. I'll be posting musings (like this one), reviews of cook books, interviews with authors, reviews of fiction and non-fiction about culinary topics (I love a good culinary romance, don't you?), and just a little bit of everything here at Loving Culinary.

Thank you for dropping by and Happy New Year!