It is a family tradition in our house to eat black eyed peas. On New Year’s Day. It is said to bring luck. As someone who says “rabbit rabbit” religiously every first-of-the-month, who am I to resist?
In the past, I have included black eyed peas in soup for New Year’s Day. But lately, I have been making Hopping John. This Year’s version was quite tasty, so I thought I would share.
It helps to start with some leftover ham.
First, clean and soak 1 pound (a bag) of black eyed peas overnight. Use between six and eight cups of water. Use a big pot (like 8 quarts or more), one that can take heat over the stove.
In the morning, chop up an onion, three celery stalks, and a whole green pepper. Sauté them in bacon fat (you have some in the fridge, right?) or butter. Get them soft but not caramelized. Then throw in about a half pound of diced ham, stirring to get it warmed through.
Put the onion, pepper, celery and ham in the pot with the beans and their water. To this, add: four cups chicken stock, a tablespoon of salt,a teaspoon of pepper, and a few shakes of Tabasco. The whole thing will be the consistency of a thick soup.
Bring the whole mixture to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes until the beans are tender.
A this point, it will have a consistency of something between soup and stew.
Add two cups of rice, and bring it all to a boil again. Then reduce heat, cover, and cook the rice for 25 minutes.
Now, remove the cover and keep the heat on until whatever moisture is left evaporates so it is a slightly creamy consistency (like a thick risotto).
When we have a few people coming over, and something casual on the agenda, I often get a request from the family for me to make a batch of enchiladas. They feed a lot, are tasty, and look like they are harder to make than they are.
Here’s my recipe.
What you need:
Chicken (boneless skinless thighs)
Enchilada sauce (at least four cans)
Shredded Mexican cheese mix (at least two 16 ounce packages)
First, you’ll need to cook up some chicken. It is best if you don’t use chicken breast, which will dry out because of all the cooking you will need to do. Instead, go for boneless, skinless thighs. They won’t dry out. I start out by making a court bouillon to cook my chicken:
Start with a pot of cold water.
Add a quartered onion, a few sliced celery stalks, a handful of whole peppercorns, and a bunch of chili powder.
Add the chicken thighs and make sure the water barely covers the whole thing (you may need to add water).
Put the pot on the burner on high until it starts to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for fifteen minutes.
Turn off the heat, and remove the chicken pieces. Now you will need to cut it all up into bits. This is a fun part!
Meanwhile, while the chicken was cooking, it’s best to get everything else ready:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix shredded Mexican cheese with enchilada sauce.
Prepare baking dishes by spraying with Pam and pouring enchilada sauce to cover bottom.
Warm up at least 10 flour tortillas (microwave a package for 1 minute).
Put the cut-up chicken into a bowl.
Now you are ready to build your enchiladas! It’s easy, and really messy:
Open at least four cans of enchilada sauce.
Get a big plate, pour enchilada sauce to cover the bottom.
Take one tortilla and put it in the plate.
Flip it so both sides are covered with sauce.
Put a little line of chicken and the cheese/sauce mixture across the diameter of the tortilla.
Roll it up and put it in one of the baking dishes.
When dish is full, cover with more enchilada sauce and cheese.
As you run out of sauce and cheese, add it to keep your supplies topped off.
Now, cook the enchiladas at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. You want the cheese to be bubbly all through, so make sure you give it enough time.
Enjoy! Whatever you don’t eat is awesome the next day or the next.
Here’s a dish that sounds like it might be complicated but is really, really easy to make. Lots of times I will want to make a cream sauce for pasta, but I get sort of tired of the usual. This has a slight tang to it and it’s tasty.
Here’s what you need:
1lb Farfalle pasta (or penne)
1.5lb boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
3/4c Heavy Whipping Cream
1T Dijon mustard
3T Rice Vinegar (or white wine)
1.4c grated Parmesan cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil
If you use your time wisely while the pasta water is coming to a boil, you can get it all done pretty quickly. The trick is to get ready while the water is boilng, and then do everything at once. Here’s how to make it.
Start the salted pasta water boiling
Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces, each about the size of a small walnut. Season aggressively with salt and pepper
When the pasta water is at a rolling boil, heat a saucepan over medium high heat. When it is hot, add olive oil to coat the bottom, and let the oil heat until it shimmers. Toss in about 2TB of butter and let it melt.
Up to this point you can take it easy. But now that the oil is ready, it’s go time! Tell everyone you’ll be eating in about 15 minutes.
Add the chicken pieces to the hot saucepan. There’s a trick to this! Use tongs to place them one at a time, quickly, so that they are covering the bottom of the saucepan. They should be sizzling. Start the timer so you know how long the chicken is cooking.
Add pasta to the pasta water
Let the chicken pieces sit. DO NOT check them! After four minutes, try turning one over with tongs. If it turns easy and is browned on one side, then you can turn the rest. If not, wait one more minute and turn them all. Do this quickly so they are all pretty much turned at the same time.
Meanwhile, be mindful of the pasta water! When it’s boiling, start a timer for 11 minutes. (This will prbably be about halfway through the chicken part, but it depends on various factors.)
Let the chicken cook for one minute on the second side. Remove them and set them aside in a bowl.
Drain the saucepan of oil and turn the heat to medium
Add 1TB of butter and the onions. Salt the onions so they will break down. Let them soften for 2 minutes. Add the 1T of Dijon mustard and mix it around for 1 minute.
Deglaze the pan with the rice vinegar or white wine. Just a little bit! Scrape up all the bits and let the liquid boil a bit.
Pour in the heavy whipping cream and let it come to a boil so it starts to reduce. (Stir it!) Add in a handful of Parmesan cheese, and lots of pepper.
Once it has reduced, lower heat to low and add the chicken (and whatever juices have drained into the bowl). Let it warm for one minute.
Drain pasta, pour into saucepan, and then turn that out into a large pasta bowl for serving.
Mix the pasta a bit so it is covered with the sauce (but don’t bury the chicken pieces, which should stay at the top when you flip the saucepan). Top with pepper and Paremsan cheese.
Enjoy! This is tasty with some Italian country bread.
It’s Saturday morning, 8:30. You’ve gone out to get the car washed and your hair cut. But it’s still too early to mow the lawn. And the family is waking up hungry. What do you do? Pancakes, that’s what!
Believe me, this takes about as much time as making toast, and is a lot more fun. Plus, you get the satisfaction of thinking to yourself, “Who needs pancake mix?” and you can tell everyone at work on Monday that you made pancakes from scratch.
“Who Needs Pancake Mix?” Pancakes
2 C Flour
2 T Sugar
1 T Baking Powder
1 ½ t Salt
2 C Milk + a little
4 T Butter, melted in the microwave
Heat a nonstick griddle over medium-high heat.
Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt) until they’re a uniform powder. Then pour in the melted butter, milk and crack the eggs into the mixture. Stir it all together so the yolks make the batter a bit yellowish. Stir until it’s just mixed but still a little lumpy. It should seem a bit thin – if it’s too thick add a few more splashes of milk.
Test to see if the griddle is hot enough by flicking some water onto it – the drops should sizzle and dance if it’s ready. It CAN get too hot, though, so check it after not too long.
Use a quarter-cup measuring cup or a ladle to pour the pancakes out onto the griddle. When bubbles begin to form around their edges, they are ready to flip.
After you flip them, they will puff up a little. Wait a moment, then press them down with the spatula (they’re tastier if they are thinner). If you want, cut a piece of butter to put on top of each one while the second side is cooking, so it melts down into it.
If you are cooking for a large group, you can have the oven on “warm” with a plate in it – keep the finished pancakes there while you make griddleful after griddleful. Serve in stacks with syrup and watch your family enjoy their morning.
You can double the recipe and save it in the fridge overnight for Sunday morning pancakes too. It tastes even better after sitting a while.
If you want to feel like Super Dad, just bake a loaf of bread for the family. Your home will fill with the sweet smell of a bakery, and will feel especially inviting.
This bread recipe is a slight modification of “Neil’s Harbor White Bread” by Christa Bauman. Neil’s Harbor is in Nova Scotia, and once I discovered this recipe I developed a fascination with the place. I have yet to visit, but I have traveled there many times in my mind. I imagine it to be a small, harbor village with fishermen and children and dogs all running about. (The only link I can find to the original recipe appears dead, so maybe you will have better luck.)
This recipe increases the sugar and butter slightly, and adds gluten. It’s really the most basic white sandwich bread you can imagine, everything that Wonder bread should be and isn’t. I used to make 3 loaves every Sunday using a mixer, but you can make it a loaf at a time just using a bowl and a spoon (the directions below are for one loaf). Can you believe it, my kids actually like this better than store-bought. And, my dad often comes over Sunday just for his loaf.
1C Lukewarm Water (110 to 115 degrees F)
4T Butter, Melted in the microwave
3T Sugar and 1T Sugar
1T Yeast – Active Dry or “Bread Machine”
1t Salt – Kosher
1T Wheat Gluten (optional, but it improves the texture)
3C Lukewarm Water
½C Butter, Melted
½C Sugar and 1T Sugar
1 1/2T Salt – Kosher
3T Wheat Gluten
In a large, warm bowl, stir 1T of the sugar into the water until it dissolves. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let it sit for five to seven minutes. Once the yeast has dissolved and is beginning to bubble, mix in the sugar,salt and butter until you have a sort of soup.
Stir in one cup of the flour. Once it’s mixed together, stir in another. Continue adding a cup of flour at a time – don’t add too much at once. Once there are about twice the number of cups of flour as there are liquid, it will be hard to stir. (If you are making three loaves, you should be using a big mixer, and switch to the dough hook after about five or six cups). Keep adding flour until there are three cups flour to every one cup water. Then, you may need to add more flour at the end– it should be a little sticky but not too wet.
Knead it for ten to fifteen minutes. Once it’s elastic and feels like a damp, deflated football half filled with water, roll it into a ball. One loaf will be about the size of a softball; three will be the size of a cantaloupe.
With olive oil (use vegetable or canola oil if you don’t have olive oil), coat the sides of a large bowl and put the ball in. Flip it once or twice so it’s covered with oil. Cover it with a dishtowel and set it aside in a warm spot away from drafts.
In anywhere from 40 minutes to 1-1/2 hours, the dough will have risen to about double its original size. It will feel moister, and won’t be as dense. Flip it out onto a hard surface (coat the surface with a bit of flour so the dough won’t stick to it) and punch the dough down until it’s flat. Then, roll it into a loaf, about the diameter of a soda can or slightly smaller.
Now, turn on the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees.
Oil the inside of a large loaf pan (Pam will work fine) and put the shaped loaf into it. If the dough has a “seam,” put it on the bottom. Cover the loaf with a dishtowel and let it rise again. It should grow to about double size again, so the dough is just about an inch below the top of the loaf pan. This second rise will take anywhere from 40 minutes to 1-1/2 hours as well. It all depends on your climate, the ingredients, and luck.
Once the loaf is up to about an inch or so below the top of the loaf pan, bake it for 18 minutes at 400 degrees. It will puff up nicely, and turn golden brown. When it’s ready, take it out of the oven and turn it out of the pan. It will sound hollow when you thump it. Let it cool on a rack if you have one or on a wooden cutting board.
Now, go get your family and give them some fresh, warm bread with butter spread all over it!
This bread freezes well; just wait until it’s cooled to room temperature before you put it in a plastic bag and toss it in the freezer. Since it has some fat content, this bread will keep up to about four days once it’s sliced. Don’t throw away the heels and old pieces; it makes great French Toast.
Do you have a favorite bread recipe? Let us know in the comments!