Kitchen Accomplice-Hoppin' WHO?!? Hoppin? JOHN will make you rethink black eyed peas

   The origins of the name for this low country side dish are uncertain; one possibility is that the name is a corruption of the Haitian Creole term for black-eyed peas.
   A custom held in some parts of the southern east coast, is that three peas must be left on each person’s plate at the conclusion of the dinner: one for luck, one for fortune and one for romance. 
   And in some places it is important for the host to leave a coin under each diner’s bowl of Hoppin’ John – symbolic of the fortune it is to bring to the guest.
   One can see this dish conjures up lots of superstition, perhaps explaining its Haitian origins -- where voodoo is still prevalent in many regions.
   But for me, It is just one of those dishes that is fully delicious and is good for one.  If luck, fortune and romance follow – well, that can’t be all bad!  See what it brings to you and your guests.

Hoppin’ John

1 ham hock, plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
1 celery stock, diced
1 small onion, diced
1   green pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound dried black-eyed peas, about 2 cups
1 bay leave
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 heaping teaspoon Cajun seasoning
Sea salt
2 cups of long grain rice
Green onion for garnish

Heat the oil and increase the heat to medium high.  Add the celery, onion, and green pepper and sauté 4-5 minutes. 
Add the garlic and cook another 1 minute. 
Add the black-eyed peas, bay leaf, thyme and Cajun seasoning and cover with 4 cups of water. 
Add the ham hock to the pot and bring it to a simmer.
Cook for 30 minutes or more until peas are tender, but not mushy.  Skim the water a couple of times to get rid of the froth on top.
While the peas are cooking prepare the rice.
When the peas are tender throughout, but not mushy, strain out the remaining cooking water. 
Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Taste for salt and add more if needed. 
Remove ham hock from the pot, pull off the meat and return the meat to the pot.
Serve over steamed rice, garnished with chopped green onions.
Serve with cornbread, lots of butter and a big bowl of steaming low country greens – collard, kale, beet or turnip greens.

Collard Greens
1 6-quart pot
2 or 3 smoked turkey necks
5 lbs. of fresh collard greens
Cutting board
Large knife
2 tsp. of salt
2 tsp. of garlic powder
2 tsp. of black pepper
Stirring spoon
Large slow cooker

Fill the pot with water about halfway and add the smoked turkey necks.
Bring the water to a rolling boil and let the turkey necks cook like this for about half an hour or so until the meat is falling apart. It's important for the meat to be falling apart, so cook the turkey necks a little longer if necessary. Be sure the meat has cooked thoroughly as it will be the primary flavoring for the collard greens.
Take the collard greens and tear apart each leaf. Rinse each leaf separately under cold running water.
Stack five or more leaves on top of each other and roll them together as if you were rolling up a newspaper.
Place the roll on a cutting board and slice the collards into thin strips with a large knife.
Rolling the leaves together helps you to get them cut a lot more quickly, so feel free to roll together as many as your knife can handle.
Add the greens to the pot of boiling water until the pot is full.
As the greens wilt add a few more and repeat this process until all of the collard greens have been put into the pot.
Stir in the salt, garlic powder and black pepper.
Let the collard greens cook for half an hour on medium heat.
Stir the pot every so often so the taste of the smoked meat can be spread evenly.
Transfer some of the greens to your slow cooker. Once the cooker is nearly full, bring the water to a gentle boil.
Reduce the heat to its lowest setting and let the greens cook in the slow cooker for about 8 to 10 hours.
You can prepare collard greens well without the slow cooker, but this step helps make them so tender that they'll virtually melt in your mouth.

Judge Kirkendall is a retired probate judge.He has taught cooking classes for more than 25 years at various cooking schools in the Ann Arbor area and has himself attended classes at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, as well as schools in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco. He is past president of the National College of Probate Judges and can be reached at