Hoppin’ John has a fascinating history, with many regional variations – too many to count. One difference is the variety of field peas used. A lot of Southerners grew up with cowpeas, or “red peas,” in their Hoppin’ John, rather than black-eyed peas. There are also different opinions about bacon versus ham hocks, and whether to cook the rice separately or make it a one-pot meal.
Notes from the RG Test Kitchen: We tried a one-pot version first, but it fell short on flavor, so we cooked the rice and peas separately and combined them at the end to keep the flavors distinct. We used Anson Mills Carolina Gold Rice and followed their specific cooking instructions; if you use a different type of rice, follow the instructions on the package.
- 6 thick-cut bacon slices, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup uncooked Rancho Gordo Black Eyed Peas, or other cowpeas, rinsed
- 1/2 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt (divided use)
- 1 cup uncooked Carolina Gold Rice, preferably Anson Mills
- 6 cups water
- 2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sliced green onions for serving
Serves 4 to 6
- In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until starting to crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon and set aside. Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Add the celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the peas and enough water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring to a full boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, using a lid to help regulate the heat, and gently cook until done, 30 to 90 minutes. Add ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste) when the peas begin to soften. Fish out the bay leaf, and gently stir in the reserved bacon.
- Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a separate pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the rice and 1 tablespoon of salt; stir once, and as soon as the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the rice is just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the rice in a fine-holed footed colander and rinse well with cool water. Shake the colander to drain off excess water.
- Distribute the rice evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and allow the rice to dry for about 5 minutes, gently turning the grains from time to time with a spatula. Dot with the butter and sprinkle with pepper to taste. Return the baking sheet to the oven and allow the rice to warm through, occasionally turning the grains, until the butter has melted and the rice is hot, about 5 minutes more.
- At this point, you can return the rice to the pot and gently stir in the peas, or you can divide the rice among bowls and top with the peas. Sprinkle with green onions.