Gourmandistan is about as far from a theocracy as possible. However, we are not above indulging in bits of propitiation, as evidenced by the atheistic Michelle’s insistence on egg baskets, angel ornaments and other religious emulations. The turning of the calendar to a new year found us once again looking for ways to eat black-eyed peas and greens, a tradition supposedly guaranteeing luck and good fortune in the coming months. While we are skeptics, we find ourselves already crediting good fortune for bringing us this delicious Ouita Michel Kentucky/India biryani mash-up, which also gave us the excuse to make saag paneer to get in our New Year’s Day greens.
The meal was a little labor-intensive, with Michelle spending much of the day in the kitchen despite employing rice makers, grinders, processors and other tech. (Steve showed up to make the paneer, plus fry some cornmeal roti right before serving.) But the combination of black-eyed peas, bacon and ham with Indian spices made for a great meal, and possibly a great new year. We’re pretty sure no dryads, demigods, saints, sprites or pixies will have anything to do with it, but we wish you all the best for the coming year, along with many, many more.
HOPPIN' JOHN BIRYANI
(adapted from Ouita Michel via Garden & Gun Magazine)
- 4 slices smoked bacon, cut into 1/4″ lardons
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 TB garlic, minced
- 1 TB ginger, minced
- 1 jalapeno or other hot pepper(s), diced
- Approx. 20 ounces fresh shelled black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
- Chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
- Pinch of saffron
Cook bacon in a medium-large saucepan over low heat, tossing occasionally until done. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon or spatula and reserve.
Cook onion in bacon fat until translucent. Add carrot and celery and cook for a few minutes. Then add garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté for a few minutes more.
Add black-eyed peas, then cover with stock. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until peas are softened but still holding their shape, about 20 minutes.
Drain peas in a colander over a bowl, reserving the cooking liquid. Add saffron to warm cooking liquid.
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 5 whole cloves
- 4 cardamom pods, cracked
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. Kashmiri chili powder
- 2 bay leaves
Mix together in a small bowl.
- 3 TB neutral oil
- 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
- Spice mix (above)
- 2 scoops/4 servings of Basmati rice, rinsed*
- Reserved bean cooking liquid + more stock if needed
Heat oil in a small skillet. Add onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until starting to caramelize. Add spice mix and continue to cook until fragrant, a couple of minutes more.
Add rice to rice cooker bowl. Stir in spiced onions. Pour in reserved bean cooking liquid (+ added stock if needed) to appropriate level. Cook rice.
When rice is done, toss with the cooked black-eyed peas and the following add-ins.
- Reserved bacon
- Generous handful of chopped parsley
- 6-8 chopped scallions
- 1 c. chopped toasted pecans
- 1 c. diced country ham, fried in a little oil
- 1/2 c. dried currants
*To cook without a rice cooker, the recipe says to use 2 cups rice and 4 cups liquid.