By Amy Gaw / Correspondent
January 1, 2021
In northeastern North Carolina, the devoted and the superstitious know that only by eating a steaming bowl of heavily seasoned, black-eyed peas with rice will one have a chance for good luck in the new year. Collards, in all their green-color-of-money glory, represent prosperity, and must be eaten as well. If a few local oysters can be scored for the meal, too, that is hitting the New Year’s Day trifecta.
Thankfully, the black-eyed pea recipe is relatively easy to make and affordable for most food budgets. Hoppin’ John is also delicious, filling and healthy. Collards are in the local fields and cut-your-own stands provide machetes. Oysters are local, too, and are as easy to prepare as buying a pint of pre-shucked and a box of saltines or as complicated as firing up the grill for a quick roast, which isn’t complicated at all. Oysters can also be decadent and, no matter how presented, they provide the eater an immediate source of good luck.
Food always tastes better when eaten with others. If able, share a separate-but-together helping with a neighbor. Most of these foods are also available in tinned forms, perfect for donating to local food banks.
Hoppin’ John over Rice
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, soaked in water overnight
10 cups water
1 ham hock
4 bay leaves
½ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
8 cups cooked rice, prepared according to package instructions
Kimchee and chopped green onions, optional garnishes.
Place dried black-eyed peas, water, ham hock and bay leaves in a medium sized pot and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the peas are tender. Add more water as needed to keep it soupy.
When the peas are tender, drain and reserve cooking liquid and ham hock.
In clean pot add olive oil, onion, celery and carrots. Cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the onions start to become translucent.
Add cooked beans, ham hock, reserved cooking liquid and 6 cups of water.
Simmer for at least 30 minutes and season generously with Tabasco, salt and pepper.
For service, top warm rice with Hoppin’ John, garnish with chopped green onion and serve with plenty of hot sauce, salt and pepper. You might also enjoy the addition of kimchee, a fermented, spicy cabbage condiment that especially popular in our region. Be sure to eat this dish with a helping of collards.
Collards with Cornmeal Dumplings
4-5 pounds of collards, washed and clean
1/4 – 1/2 pound salt pork
Water for cooking collards
2/3 cup fine-ground white cornmeal
1/3 cup plain flour
Pinches of salt
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup water or broth from cooked collards
Place collards and as much salt pork as you like in a large pot.
Cover with water and simmer for 45-50 minutes in a covered pot. While simmering, make cornmeal dumplings.
Combine cornmeal, flour, salt and sugar then add just enough of the water to hold the mixture together, but still a little wet. From the dough, make small flat dumplings to drop into a stew.
Drop individual cornmeal dumplings around the side of the pot with the collards and simmer for 20 more minutes with the lid off.
Recipe credit: Contributed by Chef Lovey Selby, of Manteo, s she remembers it prepared at Miss Esther’s Café on Roanoke Island. This recipe was originally featured in the book “Lost Restaurants of the Outer Banks and Their Recipes” by Amy Gaw.
Fancy Baked Oysters
2 dozen shucked, briny oysters on the half shell
1 batch topping
1 batch blender hollandaise w/extra dash cayenne
1 cup chilled, cooked, drained, chopped collards
1 clove shallot
2 ounces country ham
2 ounces white wine
2 tablespoon bread crumbs
Dash celery salt
White pepper to taste
3 egg yolks
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon local sea salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
1 cup butter
Prepare topping by pulsing all ingredients in a food processor until very fine. Set aside.
To prepare hollandaise, put egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne in a blender.
Heat butter until bubbly. Do not burn.
Cover blender and whirl at high speed for 2 or 3 seconds. Remove the cover’s center section and pour in the hot butter in a thin, steady stream. Make sure you do this while the blender is running, about 30 seconds. Taste and add more lemon or salt if needed. Set aside.
Arrange oysters on a baking sheet.
Top oysters with a teaspoon of topping mixture and a drizzle of hollandaise.
Broil until bubbly and steamy, about 1 or 2 minutes (the tops will get brown). Do not overcook. Drizzle with more hollandaise. Eat immediately.