If your dish's color is lighter than Esau's, it's because he stirs in a dark, thick stock right after the rice goes in. Because it takes hours to make that stock, we used chicken broth (a lighter color) and still got great results.
1 (16-ounce) package dried field peas or black-eyed peas
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
6 ounces fatback*
2 (8-ounce) smoked ham hocks
1 cup medium-size sweet onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 cup water, divided
2 cups uncooked short-grain rice
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon pepper
How to Make It
Place field peas in a Dutch oven; add water to cover 2 inches above peas. Bring to a boil, and boil 1 minute. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand 1 hour. Drain peas, and set aside.
Place peeled garlic cloves and next 3 ingredients in the center of a large coffee filter; bring sides up, and tie with kitchen twine. Set garlic-and-herb bag aside.
Sauté fatback in Dutch oven over medium-low heat 10 minutes or until crisp. Remove fatback, reserving drippings in Dutch oven, and discard.
Add ham hock to Dutch oven, and cook 5 minutes or until skin becomes crispy and lean portion of the ham hock is tender. (Use the tines of a fork to test tenderness.)
Add onion and minced garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, 1 1/2 hours.
Bring remaining 4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan; stir in rice and 2 teaspoons salt. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Set rice aside.
Add field peas, garlic-and-herb bag, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to ham hock mixture in Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes. Remove and discard garlic-and-herb bag.
Stir cooked rice into field pea mixture; simmer 5 minutes or until heated through, adding broth, if necessary.
*Salt pork may be substituted.
Note: Esau uses a short-grain rice. He says you can substitute 4 cups of cooked long-grain rice, prepared according to package directions, but it will have a different texture.
This is a top notch recipe for Hoppin' John and well worh the extra work it takes. When I can't find fatback in the stores, I just use bacon and that seems to work out well. I often crumble the reserved bacon into the rice at the end once I have mixed the rice and peas together. I serve this once a year on New Year's Day with Esau's Collard Greens recipe and Ham. Old Southern wive's tail passed down from my grandmother says that this is the GOOD LUCK meal for the new year. Happy 2009 to everyone!
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