Resolutions tend to come and go, but? Southerners have a more enduring New Year’s ritual—a bowl of hoppin’ John, served with a side of greens and the promise of prosperity. While folklore varies about the origins of this West African–influenced dish, a pork-flavored stew pot of rice and black-eyed peas, the symbolism stays the same: The beans represent coins, and the pork conveys optimism, because pigs forage forward and don’t look back. “During the years my family moved around the South, I had many versions of hoppin’ John,” says Stephen Stryjewski, an Army brat and now co-owner and chef of Cochon in New Orleans. “But it was living in the Carolina lowlands, where black-eyed peas and rice were historically grown in abundance, that I learned to understand and love the complexities of the dish.” Stryjewski, winner of the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Chef: South, is known for his inventive takes on regional dishes. Though his restaurant version of hoppin’ John is more elaborate, at home he sticks to a traditional one-pot recipe, but with a South Louisiana twist or two. Drawing from his surroundings, the chef uses sustainably farmed Cajun Grain rice, a brown jasmine variety flecked with bits of wild red rice, along with the local pork specialty, Tasso ham, letting its spicy, smoky flavor seep into the pot. The one thing that doesn’t change? The lucky black-eyed peas. “I’ve had great fortune over the past few years,” Stryjewski says. “And if this is all it took, then everyone should eat a lot of hoppin’ John.” Meet the chef: Stephen Stryjewski Current restaurants: ?Cochon, Cochon Lafayette, Cochon Butcher (New Orleans) On the menu: Braised pork cheeks with fresh field peas and spoon bread; charred onion hush puppies with pickled vinegar mayo; smoked beef brisket with horseradish potato salad?Food philosophy: High-quality products simply prepared Outside the kitchen: “I enjoy gardening, and many early mornings and late nights are spent roaming about my yard, where I have persimmons, pomegranates, figs, a Meyer lemon tree, blueberry bushes, blackberry bushes, a satsuma tree, muscadine and Taylor grapes, and beds where I grow peppers, peanuts, tomatoes, eggplant, squash, okra, peas, beans, herbs, and lots of flowers.”
On behalf of myself, my wonderful son Garrett and Mabel Merry Lou the wonder-dog (not pictured, silly rules at the aquarium)- we wish you the most wonderful end to 2017 and an exciting New Year in 2018 full of love, light and happiness. We're lucky you're in our lives! If you give this awesome recipe a try, shoot us a photo!!! Here's to hoping it brings you good luck, new adventures and a full belly!