Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, green bell pepper, celery, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Add thyme, red pepper, salt, black pepper, and bay leaves; cook 1 minute. Add water and ham hocks, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Add peas; cook for an additional 30 minutes.
Remove ham hocks from pan; cool. Remove ham from bones; finely chop. Discard bones, skin, and fat. Add rice and red bell pepper to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in ham. Discard bay leaves. Spoon into a serving dish, and sprinkle with green onions.
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Guess I'm the lone voice of dissent on this one. I was looking forward to a light version of this classic New Year's Day dish but was sorely disappointed. The flavor profile of the dish is basically dried thyme...that's it. I used smoked ham hocks and don't think they added anything. Furthermore, at least on the hocks I bought, there was literally no meat to be found, just skin, bone, tendon and fat. For me, Hoppin' John has always meant a LOT of bacon as well as some chopped country ham. Not a healthy dish but a really tasty, meaty, smoky, hearty and savory one. This version tasted like peas and rice in some some weakly seasoned water.
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