Black eyed peas and rice "hoppin' john"

I've been in Texas most of my life, which means (among many other, awesome things) that every Jan 1 I choke down a spoonful of black eyed peas for good luck in the upcoming year. It's working, for sure, as the past 39 years have been chock full of the best luck. This year, though, I made a discovery that made me actually crave black eyed peas - I just bought a bag of frozen peas at the store and made this recipe for the second time, on Jan 25, without any promise of luck, fortune, or blessings, just unctuous deliciousness.

It's not much to look at, but this BEP hoppin' john variation is easy to prepare and full of flavor. The peas aren't mushy but rather retain their texture and are just a little bit sweet. The rice is toasted first to bring a wonderful element to the mix. I used a recipe from the Lee Brothers Simple Fresh Southern cookbook. They use English peas, which I'm sure would be delightful, but not particularly lucky. 

This is lighter than a traditional hoppin' john, which is generally prepared with bacon or ham, chopped onion, and lots of fat in addition to rice and peas. 

Toasted rice and black eyed peas "Hoppin' John"

10oz package frozen black eyed peas
1 Tbsp bacon fat or olive oil
1 cup basmati rice (do not rinse)
1/2 tsp crushed dried red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, preferably a fancy finishing one
1/2 tsp flaky finishing salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 

Remove the peas from the freezer.

Set a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat for 1 minute, then add the bacon fat or olive oil and heat it for 1 minute. Add the rice, stirring it with a wooden spoon until the grains are all coated and shiny. Toast the rice, stirring it only occasionally, for 2-3 minutes.

Add 2 cups water and stir to evenly distribute the rice in the water. Bring to a simmer, turn the heat to low, and cover the pan with the lid slightly ajar for steam to escape. Simmer the rice for exactly 10 minutes. 

Remove the pan from the heat and add the frozen peas and red pepper flakes, stirring to incorporate and breaking up any large clumps of peas. Cover the pan tightly, and allow it to sit for a full 5 minutes, off the heat, without peeking. 

Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and stir once or twice to partially incorporate. Serve immediately. 


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