Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Lucky New Year’s Meal

Today I’m busy preparing the traditional New Year’s Day lucky meal of black-eyed peas, cooked greens and pork. Now I have no idea if this meal really brings me luck but I’m afraid to find out what happens when I don’t eat it. My mother, a native Virginian, has made the traditional Southern version of this meal for as long as I can remember -even if I had force a few bites of collard greens and hoppin’ john down as a kid in order to reap the benefits, I did so. And, all in all, I’ve been a pretty lucky person.

So this year I’m trying a couple of new recipes in hopes that this meal is as tasty as it is lucky, which is a challenge when you’re working with bland black-eyed peas. They are, of course, an important part of this meal because they symbolize wealth, but I’ve decided that they are among my least favorite legumes so it’s fitting I only eat them one time a year. To give them some flavor I’m spicing my hoppin’ john up with the addition of some Cajun seasoning and ham because pork represents prosperity. It’s my own variation of a Cooking Light recipe that is delicious on its own (see below).

Maybe it’s because the cooked greens also symbolize wealth, or “greenbacks,” that I’ve come to like them much more as an adult than I did as a kid. I’ve also discovered that greens are an excellent vehicle for bacon (which, by the way, makes everything delicious) and are much more enjoyable when loaded with salt and fat. Though my mom never made them this way, true Southern greens are slow cooked with fatback, ham hocks and/or bacon. Being fairly health-conscious (as a dietitian and all) I’ve decided to sauté kale with onions, salt and pepper and top it off with cooked, crumbled bacon. Real bacon, since (thankfully) I’ve finally realized that turkey bacon just doesn’t cut it.

One of my favorite blogs, DC Foodies, has a good synopsis of the lucky meal traditions.

Hoppin’ John
2 16 oz packages frozen black-eyed peas
2 cups hot water
¾ cup sliced green onions
¾ cup chopped red bell pepper
2 t hot sauce
1 T Cajun seasoning
Generous pinch of salt and pepper
1 vegetable-flavored bouillon cube
1 cup cubed ham
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with onion, undrained
2/3 cup uncooked converted rice
½ c slice green onions

Combine first 9 ingredients in crock pot and stir well. Cover and cook on high 4 hours. Stir in tomatoes and rice, cover and cook 1 hour or until peas and rice are tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in green onions.

Yield: 6 servings

Best of luck in the new year!

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