This black-eyed pea dish is a year-round favorite
The dish that black-eyed peas are most famous for is Hoppin’ John. The name’s origin is unknown but may have come from the Creole word for pigeon pea, “pois a pigeon,” pronounced “pwah peeJon.”
Hoppin’ John is one of those classic Southern dishes that come in as many versions as there are cooks. Boiled down to its essence, however, it’s black-eyed peas, smoked pork, onions and rice.
Although most of the nation eats Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day to get their fill of luck, some Southerners serve it year-round.
Hoppin’ John typically is a side dish served with collards. But this version becomes an entrée by adding fish.
1⁄3-pound bacon, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups black-eyed, purple hull or field peas, fresh or frozen
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
Salt to taste
2 cups long grain rice
Chopped tomato and scallion for garnish
Cook bacon in a medium pot over medium low heat until crisp. Increase heat to medium high and add celery, onion and green pepper. Sauté until they begin to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Add the black-eyed peas, bay leaf, thyme and Cajun seasoning and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring to a simmer and cook until peas are tender, but not mushy, about 30 minutes to an hour.
While the peas are cooking, prepare the rice separately according to package instructions.
When the peas are tender, strain out the remaining cooking water, remove and discard bay leaf. Taste the peas for seasonings and adjust if needed.
BAKED FISH WITH LEMON HERB BUTTER
For the fish:
4 (6-ounce) sheepshead or grouper fillet (1-11⁄2 inch thick). Any firm white fish can be substituted.
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon pepper
For the lemon herb butter:
1 stick butter, softened
1⁄2 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1⁄2 tablespoon minced shallot
1⁄2 tablespoon fresh chives
Pinch of pepper
Combine all the ingredients for the lemon herb butter and whisk well. Cover and chill until firm.
Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Spread 2 tablespoons lemon herb butter on each fillet. Place fish on a lightly greased metal pan. Bake at 400 F for 10-12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Divide rice evenly between plates, ladle black-eyed peas over the rice, place a fillet on top of each and garnish with chopped tomatoes and scallions.
Phil Newton is a Galveston baker/cook. He’s the owner/operator of Stiglich Corner with partner Cindy Roberts.