Hoppin' John

Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6
Hoppin’ John
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

In a large saucepan, combine the ham hock and water and bring to a boil. Skim any foam, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.


Wash and sort the peas. Add them to the saucepan and discard any peas that float. Stir in the sambal oelek, onion, celery, bay leaves and thyme, and simmer uncovered, until tender but not mushy, 1 to 1½ hours. There should be 2 cups of liquid remaining (add more water, if needed, to make up the difference).


Remove the ham hock, shred the meat and stir the meat back in with the beans, along with the rice. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, never lifting the lid.


Remove from the heat and set the pan aside so the food will steam, still covered, for 10 more minutes. Remove the cover, fluff with a fork, and serve immediately.

Adapted from John Martin Taylor’s “Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking.” The flavor is much improved when I use the pricey Carolina Gold rice from Anson Mills. Their red peas make a difference too, but not as pronounced.

Jonathan Gold was the restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times. He won the Pulitzer Prize in criticism in 2007 and was a finalist again in 2011. A Los Angeles native, he began writing the Counter Intelligence column for the L.A. Weekly in 1986, wrote about death metal and gangsta rap for Rolling Stone and Spin among other places, and was delighted that he managed to forge a career out of the professional eating of tacos. Gold died July 21, 2018.
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