Holiday Cooking, Making Hoppin’ John

Because it is supposed to be good luck to eat Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day I decided to make it for luncheon today. This is a combination of a couple of recipes I came up with and it came out pretty damn tasty if I do say so myself. Here’s what you do:

Assemble your ingredients: 2 cans rinsed canned black-eyed peas, 1.5 cups rice, 7 strips bacon, 1 medium onion chopped, 1/2 cup each red and green bell pepper, 1.5 pounds smoked ham cut into 3/4-inch slices, 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, 4 cloves garlic, 3 bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed red pepper to taste. Also you may optionally add 3 chopped scallions to the final product if desired.
Chop bacon roughly and brown in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed dutch oven. When crisp remove to a paper lined plate with  a slotted spoon to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
Brown the ham slices for about 3 minutes a side, then remove from the pan. Set aside.
Stir in the onions and peppers and cook over medium heat until soft.
Add the garlic that has been pressed through a garlic press or chopped finely. Also add the thyme and the crushed red pepper and cook for a little under a minute or until fragrant.
Add ham slices, peas, bay leaves and chicken broth. Give it a good stir, bring to boil and then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Meanwhile put the rice into a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water for a minute to remove the surface starch. Set aside to drain.
After 45 minutes remove the ham to a plate and chop up into bite sized pieces. Stir in the rice, bring back to a simmer, place a piece of foil directly on the surface of the liquid to cover. Then cover the pot with the lid. Cook for approximately 20-25 minutes or until the liquid id absorbed, stirring and replacing the foil twice during the cooking time.
Remove the cover and foil and fluff the rice with a fork.
Add the chopped ham, the cooked bacon and the chopped scallion. Stir with a fork to mix well. Adjust seasoning with salt and ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
Hoppin’ John. Now if this does bring us good luck this year perhaps it will be soon. The Mega-Millions jackpot is going to be around $290 Million on Tuesday next! That’s a lot of cash! Wish us luck!

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