2013 was a great — albeit sometimes difficult — year.
I had a baby, who decided to turn up five weeks early and then had to spend three weeks in the hospital. I saw my husband through two surgeries — one minor and one major (a new knee!) — and my cat through one. I watched my little brother get married and then, a month later, one of my cousins. I mourned the loss of my great uncle, David. I introduced my son to his great grandfather. I quit my job.
With everything that’s happened in the past year, it’s hard to imagine that 2014 might have even more in store.
I’m not a very superstitious person but, like any good Southerner, I always make sure to usher in the New Year with black-eyed peas and a mess of greens.
This recipe for Hoppin’ John risotto came about by accident last year. I was all set to make my annual pot of Hoppin’ John – a sort of rice and black-eyed pea pilaf that many people believe portends a prosperous New Year — when I realized I was out of regular, long-grain rice.
But I had plenty of Arborio rice, the short grain kind used for risotto, so I turned the traditional pilaf into a collard and black-eyed pea studded risotto, instead.
I don’t always like to mess with tradition, but the risotto worked so well and was so simple to prepare that it might just be my new go-to New Year’s dish.
There’s no need to wait another year before preparing this, though. It’s a one-bowl meal with protein, carbs and plenty of veggies that makes a great cold-weather dinner, New Year or not.
I like a splash of vinegar with my greens, so I made a quick, cider vinegar sauce to drizzle on top of the finished risotto. I suspect the sauce would pair well with roasted brussels sprouts or wilted spinach too.
I love collard greens in this dish, but you can substitute another dark, leafy green if you prefer. I used broccoli greens this time around because that’s what was available at the farmer’s market and it turned out just as good as usual.
- 4 cups vegetable stock (or a mixture of water and stock)
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 bunch collards (or other dark, leafy greens such as mustard or turnip greens), chopped into about 1" pieces (about 4 cups)
- 1 cup cooked black-eyed peas (or cream or crowder peas)
- salt, to taste
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tsp. brown sugar
- 1.5 T butter
Bring the vegetable stock/water to a simmer in a small pot.
While the stock is warming, heat the olive oil in another, heavy, pot over medium heat.
Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and chili flakes and continue to cook for another minute or two.
Pour in the rice and stir briefly, coating the grains with the oil.
Using a ladle, transfer about 1/4 cup of the simmering stock to the rice mixture. Stir, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.
When the rice absorbs enough liquid that a pass of the spoon reveals the bottom of the pan, it's time to add more stock. If it takes more than a couple of minutes to reach this point, turn the heat up slightly to medium-high.
Continue adding stock, a 1/4 to 1/2 cup at a time, stirring with each addition. You need to stir almost constantly, to achieve the proper texture and avoid rice sticking to the bottom of the pan.
After about 15-20 minutes, pile the collard greens into the pot. Stir and proceed as before, adding stock and stirring with each addition.
After about 35 minutes, when the rice is nearly cooked through, stir in the black-eyed peas.
Continue adding stock as needed, remembering to stir well.
The risotto will be creamy when finished and the individual grains of rice will have softened, but should still have a faint bite at the center. This should take about 40 minutes, but the texture and taste is more important than how much time passes.
Remove from the heat and serve on plates or in shallow bowls, topped with Cider Vinegar Sauce.
Pour the cider vinegar into a small saucepan and stir in the brown sugar.
Heat this mixture over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced by almost half.
Remove from heat and add butter, whisking to create a smooth sauce.
Drizzle over risotto or try it over wilted spinach salad or roasted brussels sprouts.