Hearty Hoppin’ John

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Technically this is our second New Year’s Eve living in South Carolina, but the first one barely counts. We had just moved here, in a whirlwind month that not only included moving to a new state, but also getting married, honeymooning in Puerto Rico, and spending Christmas with Ally’s family. I’m pretty sure there were boxes strewn about, half unpacked, while we watched the ball drop to close out 2015.

This year we decided to put a little bit of effort in and make a New Year’s Eve dinner. I strongly considered going Asian and honoring their traditional New Year’s noodle dishes, representing longevity for the next year. But instead, I decided to pay homage to our not-so-new-anymore home with southern Hoppin’ John.

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In researching Hoppin’ John recipes, I learned that like pimento cheese (see similar ravings in that post), everyone’s own grandma prepares it the correct way, while everyone else’s grandma is doing it incorrectly. Here are the facts regarding Hoppin’ John as best I can tell: It contains black eyed peas, although certain specific areas substitute field peas or red cowpeas. The peas are what makes Hoppin’ John one of the lucky New Years dishes of the American South – the peas represent coins and thus, wealth in the new year to come. The dish also must contain rice and some form of pork product. The dish almost certainly originated with slaves brought to the US from Western Africa. And most agree that the dish’s American origins began in the Carolinas, more specifically in the South Carolina Low Country. Now for the controversies: Which pork product to use – bacon, ham, pork sausage? Which spices, if any, to use? Where did the name originate? Does the rice have to be cooked in the same dish?

Therefore, I make absolutely zero claims to the authenticity of this Hoppin’ John. In fact, I guarantee you that it is not authentic. I skimmed probably 20-25 different recipes for inspiration, but did not follow any one in particular. With the base of the aforementioned black eyed peas + rice + pork, people toss in all sorts of different additions. I certainly did. This is quite a stretch from the plain, historic version that only contained the three base ingredients. But to be honest with you, I doubt I’d really enjoy plain rice, peas, and bacon.

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Happy New Year! We’re looking forward to 2017 and hope everyone else is too!

Hearty Hoppin’ John

Ingredients: 
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepped, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of dry rice
  • 6 cups of stock (chicken, turkey, vegetable)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 15 turns fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 3 large spicy sausages, sliced
  • 4 cups of cooked black eyed peas*
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce (we like Frank’s)
Instructions: 
  1. Slice bacon into lardons. Toss into a large pan with tall edges. Cover and cook over medium heat until the bacon begins to release its fat, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the onions and carrots to the pan and stir to coat in the bacon fat. Re-cover and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Now add the garlic. Cook uncovered for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the next 10 ingredients to the pan (peppers through sausages). Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover the pan. You want the liquid to be just slightly simmering while the lid is on.
  5. Uncover and stir briefly every 15 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, add the black eyed peas.
  6. The dish is done when the rice is fully cooked. This took us ~45 minutes. You may require slightly more or less time, and/or slightly more or less liquid.
  7. Before serving, stir in the hot sauce.

*You may choose whether or not to use canned black eyed peas or soak/prepare dried peas yourself.

Serves ~10 people.

Post dinner notes: We soaked our own beans, instead of using canned ones. We overdid it in the preparation phase, and the beans were fairly mushy. Next time, we need to be a little more attentive when preparing dried beans.

High Plateau Soup

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Do you love soup as much as I do? Are you looking for a little variety in your soup life? Then this might be the soup for you. A few years ago, we were in Turkey visiting Selim’s family. Over there, I basically hit the soup jackpot. Not only does Turkish cuisine include soup with most meals, which I think is a great idea, but I also got to taste several homemade varieties from Selim’s aunts and grandmother. These women sure know how to cook. While they didn’t make this particular soup while we were there, the flavors bring me right back to their kitchens in Istanbul.

If you’re reading the ingredients, you might be thinking two thoughts… 1) “Umm… isn’t yogurt supposed to be cold?” Or 2) “Uhhh… that sounds pretty simple. It’s probably not worth my time.”

Move past those thoughts. This soup is delicious! It’s creamy and comforting. It also has amazing flavor, belying its few ingredients. The flavor profile is unique, one not particularly familiar to the American palate. Give it a whirl; I’ll bet you’ll appreciate the introduction.

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Update 9/19/16: We were invited by Genie, at Bunny Eats Design, to add this recipe to her monthly link-up. Once I got over the surprise that someone out there actually read our blog (much less someone who’s blog I’ve enjoyed reading prior to this point!), I read about her link-up. It’s called Our Growing Edge and encourages participants to attempt food-related personal challenges. I love this! This post and recipe certainly fit into that goal, as I’m always wanting to create dishes true to Selim’s Turkish heritage. This month’s link-up is hosted by Chrystal at The Smallwood Parsonage, with the theme of Family Recipes. You don’t have to be invited to join – see here. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be reading through posts from past link-ups instead of studying. 


High Plateau Soup

(Recipe adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook, by Özcan Ozan)
Ingredients: 
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 10 fresh mint leaves
Instructions: 
  1. Place the stock, rice, and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Stir in the paprika and salt.
  2. Decrease heat and cook at a low simmer for 20-30 minutes, until rice is cooked.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the yogurt, egg yolks, and flour together.
  4. Stir the yogurt mixture into the soup slowly. Chop up the mint leaves and add to the soup. Turn the heat down to low and cook for another ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
Makes 2 meal-sized servings or 4 servings as a starter or side to another dish.

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Shrimp Etouffee

Have to start somewhere right? For our very first blog post, I give you a pretty easy recipe for shrimp étouffée. The other day we saw some nice-looking fresh shrimp on sale and snatched it up. So we were trying to plan a dinner around said shrimp. I caught a glimpse of Emeril on TV, on a commercial or something while flipping channels, and thought… “What would Emeril do if he had some shrimp to use for dinner…?”

Shrimp étouffée. That’s definitely what Emeril would do in my situation.

Étouffée is a word coming from the French basically meaning “smothered.” In this dish, your roux does smother the rice underneath, so the translation is apt. A lot of times you see étouffée made with crawfish, but shrimp or other shellfish works well too. I started reading a little more about it and learned that both Cajun and Creole cuisines have traditional étouffées, with a few differences. In Creole étouffées, tomatoes are often added and the roux is cooked for a shorter time period (“blond roux.”) In Cajun étouffées, the roux is cooked for ~10-20 extra minutes, giving it a darker color and different flavor. Adding tomatoes is sacrilegious. The étouffée I made is more of the Creole variety.

Without further ado…

Shrimp Étouffée 

[Recipe is an amalgamation of reading several of Emeril’s recipes and this recipe from the Closet Cooking blog]


Ingredients:

  • 5 tbsp butter, divided (4 tbsp & 1 tbsp)
  • 4 tbsp AP flour
  • 3/4lb fresh shrimp, shell on (don’t toss the shells!!)
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire
  • 2 tsp Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • Creole seasoning (essentially Emeril’s Essence, scaled down)
    • 1 tbsp paprika (if you have access to smoked paprika, try 1 tsp smoked paprika & 2 tsp of regular paprika)
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp black pepper
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp cayenne
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Sliced green onion to garnish
  • 1/2 cup rice, dry

Instructions: 

  1. Place vegetable stock in saucepan and bring to a low simmer. Add the shrimp shells and tails to the stock and continue to simmer while working on other ingredients.
  2. Place larger saute pan or cast-iron skillet on the burner over medium heat. Add the 4 tbsp of butter to the pan and melt.
  3. Once butter is melted, begin whisking in flour slowly. I use a regular spoon and tap little bits into the butter with my left hand while continuously whisking with my right hand. If you just dump flour in all it once, it will burn and get lumpy and frankly taste terrible. So plan on being there a little while. This step will take at least 10 minutes. You want the {butter + flour = roux} to start to darken in color to a light brown.
  4. Once you have the roux, add the onions and garlic. Cook for ~5 minutes over the same medium heat. Then add the bell pepper and continue cooking for another ~5 minutes. (If your roux has gotten pretty thick and you’re concerned about the vegetables sticking and burning, add a spoonful or two of the stock.)
  5. Strain the shrimp shells from the stock. Use a very fine mesh strainer or even cheesecloth. Add the stock to your pan, along with the tomatoes, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and spices. Adjust the temperature so this is simmering. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for ~20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook your rice per package instructions. When the rice is done, add the remaining 1 tbsp of butter and keep covered.
  6. Taste the sauce and adjust salt & pepper as needed. Add the shrimp to the sauce and cook for < 5 minutes, until the shrimp have just turned pink.
  7. Serve etouffee over rice and garnish with the green onions.

Makes 2 large servings.