Hoppin' John, a New Year tradition

Many cultures believe there's a way to ensure a positive outcome in the new year by eating lucky foods.

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By Joseph Erdos for Oneforthetable.com

New Year's is about a lot of things: partying into the night, getting tipsy on Champagne, sharing a moment with a special someone at the stroke of midnight. But most importantly, the new year is a reboot, a chance to make some changes, to set a goal and go for it, to choose a new direction in life. Many cultures believe there's a way to ensure a positive outcome in the new year by eating lucky foods. So to guarantee your good luck, why not eat your way to prosperity and wealth? It's worth a try!

It's tradition to eat pork on New Year's Day since the pig symbolizes forward progress due to its predilection to dig things up with its snout, whereas the chicken, which scratches backwards, is a no-no. Southerners equate black-eyed peas and greens with wealth -- the beans look like coins and the greens like money. Hoppin' John is one of those traditional dishes you'll find on the Southern New Year's table because it has black-eyed peas and bacon -- a winning combination.

This easy New Year's side dish is quick to put together. It can even be made with leftover rice and beans. The vegetables are cooked in the rendered bacon fat, and then the rice and beans are tossed in. Before serving, add scallions and the reserved bacon. For a true Southern New Year's supper, pair Hoppin' John with sauteed greens such as collards or kale, corn bread, and a beautiful baked ham or roast pork. Not only will it be an amazingly flavorful dinner, it will also guarantee luck for everyone who partakes in the meal.

Hoppin' John

Yield: 6 servings as a side dish.

5 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into strips

1 small onion, chopped

1 small red bell pepper, diced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced

2 cups cooked white rice

2 cups cooked black-eyed peas

1/2 cup chopped scallions, plus more for garnish

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, fry bacon until crisp. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add onion and bell pepper to hot bacon fat and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and Cayenne and sauté for 1 minute. Add tomato and cook until soft and thick, about 5 minutes. Stir in rice and black-eyed peas and warm for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in scallions and reserved bacon. Remove mixture to a platter and garnish with additional scallions.

(Joseph Erdos is a New York-based writer and editor, who shares his passion for food on his blog, Gastronomer’s Guide. One for the Table is Amy Ephron's online magazine that specializes in food, politics, and love. http://www.oneforthetable.com/.)


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