I am still entrenched in my Cooks Illustrated phase, so I returned to American Classics and tried their excellent recipe for Hoppin' John. Interestingly, the dish is cooked, not on top of the stove as is typical, but baked in the oven for the most part. The value in this method is rice that cooks very evenly and comes out perfectly fluffy. In fact, it worked so well that I may try this technique on some of my other rice dishes in the future. And thought Hoppin' John is usually thought of as a New Year's dish, it makes for such a tasty and hearty casserole that it should be served any night of the year for dinner!
(Source: American Classics)
butter for greasing the baking dish
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 ounces cooked ham, cut into 1-inch dice (about 1 1/4 cups--I used country ham)
4 ounces bacon (about four slices), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2-3/4 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (you might want to cut this to 1/4 if you don't like things very spicy!)
2 bay leaves
2 cups homemade or canned (low-sodium) chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt (I omitted this because of the salty country ham I used)
black pepper, to taste
1 (10 ounce) package frozen black-eyed peas, thawed and rinsed (do NOT use canned--too mushy!)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves (You can use dried--I did--but fresh is much better for this)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ham and cook until fat has rendered (3-6 minutes). Add the bacon and cook until somewhat crisp (about 3 minutes). Remove the ham and bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside.
3. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan and lower the heat to medium. Add the onion and saute for about 3 or 4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for just 30 seconds more. Stir in the rice, thyme, and red pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is well-coated with oil, about one minute more. Transfer the rice mixture to the prepared baking pan along with the bay leaves.
4. Return the skillet to the heat, and add the chicken stock, 1 1/2 cups water, and salt and pepper to taste. Raise the heat back to medium-high, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the black-eyed peas, ham and bacon, and bring to a boil. Pour over the rice mixture and stir to combine everything.
5. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir the rice (add another 1/4 cup of water if it looks too dry), re-cover, and return to the oven for another 20-25 minutes or until the rice is cooked through. Remove the dish from the oven, stir in the parsley, re-cover, and let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving (traditionally, with cornbread).
I wish you all peace, good health, happiness and prosperity in the new year!