Hoppin' John. It's a classic, though without a nailed-down list of ingredients -- meat (usually ham), black-eyed peas (or other legumes), tomatoes and...? And whatever. Usually some kind of heat -- hot sauce, hot pepper, what have you. (Black-eyed peas turn out to be eaten by just about everybody, everywhere, in everything from desserts to curries to fritters!)
The version I have been making suits the two of us at Roseholme Cottage. You need a big stewpot; it makes a lot. The most recent version started with a hot Italian sausage, squeezed out of its casing and mashed into bits as it cooked. While that has started to cook, I cut a big (a pound or more) bone-in, center-cut ham steak into roughly 3/8" cubes -- a generous spoon-size.
The ham goes in as the sausage nears (but is not quite) done, and cooks a bit while I chop up some baby carrots and a good-sized onion -- pick your favorite; I had a nice yellow one. Push the meat to the sides of the pan and saute the vegetables in the center.
As they cook, dice a medium fresh tomato (or a handful of cherry tomatoes) and add it, skin, seeds, pulp and and all. Chop up two or three stalks of celery and put them in, too.
It is only then that you can start to think about adding peppers. Canned chilies are good, and I used a small can of them. I had a large Poblano, which have a fairly delicate flavor, lost if overcooked. Diced it, then stirred the canned chilies, other vegetables and meat, pushed all that to the sides of the pan, and gave the Poblano a quick saute before stirring it in.
Finally time for the beans! First, a 14.5 oz can of diced or crushed tomatoes, then a can of black-eyed peas the same size, liquid and all. Pour them right in. A little basil and a touch of garlic goes well -- or you can raid the spice rack for whatever else seems good.
Get it all stirred in and bubbling, add a couple of bay leaves for luck then reduce heat to a simmer and see what else you'd like. Tam and I have taken to keeping hot pickled okra* in the fridge -- it's a nice snack. Some of that sliced into coins goes well in the Hoppin' John, too. I had a few Shishito peppers, left, too; I washed them, sliced one into short sections and added it to the pot, leaving the others to add whole a few minutes before serving. Their flavor is even more elusive than the Poblano -- you want them just barely cooked to bright-green to retain it.
Ten minutes to simmer (adding the last peppers at five) and it was ready. Usually served over rice, but we had a little rye bread to use up, so we toasted a couple of slices each and had them on the side. A nice meal, with plenty left over for the day after tomorrow. Be sure to provide hot sauce or pepper flakes at the table for those who want more heat!
* Southerners will be aghast, but our corner market stocks "Brooklyn Whatever" brand and their pickled okra is among the best I have had. Their website appears defunct and they haven't updated their Facebook page since October, but I'm hoping it's just an oversight.
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