Originally created 12/30/98

Dish welcomes new year in warm way



All over America, families celebrate New Year's Day by enjoying meals that have special significance. Most involve eating certain foods to bring luck in the new year. In some parts of the country, pork and cabbage are eaten. Families of Eastern European heritage, including the one I grew up in, celebrate the day with cabbage rolls.

Here in the Deep South, black-eyed peas and greens are usually on the menu.

The traditional meal involves cooking dried black-eyed peas for hours in a large pot with onions, bacon or fat back and seasonings. Often the peas are mixed with cooked rice for a dish called Hoppin' John.

Today's recipe for one-pot quick Hoppin' John is a dish that my family enjoys even when it's not New Year's Day. Bulk pork sausage is browned in a large pot with onion, green pepper and celery. The mixture is drained, then put back in the pot with chicken broth and converted rice, and simmered for 15 minutes. Canned black-eyed peas, which are rinsed and drained, are added, and the dish cooks for five minutes more, until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.

Using canned black-eyed peas cuts preparation time dramatically. And you can cut your time in the kitchen further by using frozen chopped onion and green pepper, which you defrost in the microwave. Or pick up a bag of the Pic Sweet Seasoning Blend I have recommended in the past. It contains chopped onion, red and green pepper, celery and parsley, and it works great in this recipe.

This dish can be made without the black-eyed peas, as a great dirty rice.

Chicken or shrimp can be added to make it a complete meal. For real Cajun flavor, you can use hot sausage or add cayenne pepper to spice it up a bit.

Enjoy this dish along with some turnip or collard greens, another Southern tradition, for a great meal while watching New Year's football games. You can purchase already washed and chopped greens near the fresh greens in the produce department of your grocery store. Add the greens to some onion that you've sauteed with bacon or fat-back, add water and cook for several hours.

Or, purchase prepared greens from the freezer section of your grocery store. There are several good brands available, including Marie Callander's.

Corn muffins also are a nice accompaniment. And finish the meal with leftover holiday sweets.

One-Pot Quick Hoppin' John

1 pound bulk sausage, hot or regular

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped green pepper

1 cup chopped celery

1 14-ounce can chicken broth

1 cup converted rice

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 bay leaf

2 14-ounce cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

Saute sausage, onion, green pepper and celery in a large pot over medium-high heat. Drain and return to the pot. Add chicken broth, rice, garlic powder, salt, black pepper and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add black-eyed peas to the pot and simmer an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed into the rice.

Makes 8 servings.

Karin Calloway is a corporate chef and free-lance writer. You can write her in care of The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30913. Or send her an e-mail to karingca@aol.com.