Ringing in the New Year (Part 1): How to Eat Your Way to Gettin’ Lucky in 2011

Ever wonder about all of those crazy New Year’s traditions? If you live in the South, you have no doubt heard of eating Hoppin’ John and collard greens as your first meal of the New Year. If you live elsewhere and are reading this blog, why not shake up your New Year’s celebration by adding a little Southern flair to your party? So, what exactly IS Hoppin’ John, you ask?!

Although Hoppin’ John is found in most Southern states,  it is mainly associated with the Carolinas. Gullah or Low Country cuisine reflects the cooking of the Carolinas, especially the Sea islands (a cluster of islands stretching along the coasts of South Carolina and northern Georgia). Hoppin’ John is a rich bean dish made of black-eyed peas simmered with spicy sausage, ham hock, or fat pork, and rice. Although some people cook the beans and rice separately, and with many variations, the Hoppin’ John to which I am accustomed contains rice cooked in the same pot with the beans.

Although it does not contain what most would consider the “must-have ingredient” of ham hock, here is Paula Deen’s recipe for this Southern dish:

HOPPIN’ JOHN

From Paula’s Home Cooking/Savannah Country Cookbook
Servings: 6 to 8 servings

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 15 min

Difficulty: Easy

INGREDIENTS:

Fresh Parsley
Paula Deen House Seasoning
Garlic powder to taste
2 cup cooked rice
1   small onion, chopped
1   small red bell pepper, chopped
2 cup black-eye peas cooked
2 tablespoon butter

DIRECTIONS:

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic powder, to taste, and cook for 5 minutes. Add peas and rice and cook an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook; this dish is best if the bell pepper and onion still have a crunch to them. Add House Seasoning, to taste. Garnish each serving with sprig of parsley.

And here is a little background information about this dish to sharpen your trivia edge:

Throughout the coastal South (YES, I live in Myrtle Beach, SC, so this is speaking directly to me!), eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s day is thought to bring a prosperous year filled with luck. The peas are symbolic of pennies or coins, and a dime is usually added to the pot. The person who finds the dime in their meal is predicted to have guaranteed prosperity  in the coming year. In our area, collard greens are also critical components of the New Year’s Day meal! I have always been told that collards are green like the color of money, so that is why, according to tradition, eating them in abundance as the first meal of the new year encourages more “green” throughout the rest of the year! I say, “Bring it on”!!!

As much as I would love to give my Southern roots full credit for creating Hoppin’ John, there is actually a much longer history involved. During the late Middle Ages, there was a tradition of eating beans on New Year’s Day for good luck in parts of France and Spain. Black-eyed peas are thought to have been introduced to America by African slaves who worked the rice plantations.The European tradition mixed with an African food item became what we now observe as our modern-day Southern tradition.

Ok, so there’s our Southern tradition…. how about some other “lucky” New Year’s foods?

GRAPES!

In Spain, it is tradition to eat a dozen grapes at midnight. Every piece of fruit represents a month of the the coming year. Each sweet grape predicts a month of prosperity, whereas every sour grape foretells of bad luck. (Note to self: make sure you get a VERY sweet bunch of grapes before serving them to yourself or your guests!). You can incorporate this Spanish tradition by threading grapes onto skewers, and serving each in a glass of Champagne just before the countdown. Kids can even participate in the eating of grapes!

Photo from Martha Stewart

RING-SHAPED FOODS!

Circular shaped foods are thought to bring good luck, because they symbolize “coming full circle” Some examples are doughnuts, bagels, cookies, pineapples, sliced olives, and calamari! So, get creative! Perhaps, you could even create an entire circular theme (and menu!) for your New Year’s celebration?

“COINED” CHOCOLATE MARBLE BREAD WITH GANACHE!

You can bake a coin into any bread, but this recipe just sounded so delicious, that even if you don’t find the coin in your portion, you still will not be disappointed! Compliments of Martha Stewart.

Makes one 8 1/2-inch loaf

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 1/2-by-4-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder into a medium bowl.
  • Melt 5 ounces chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
  • Put butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add sugar; raise speed to medium. Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two batches of milk. Mix until just combined.
  • Pour half of batter into melted chocolate; stir well. Alternating between remaining plain batter and the chocolate batter, drop large spoonfuls of batter into the prepared pan. When pan is filled, use a table knife to cut through mixture with a swirling motion.
  • Bake until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. (If bread browns too quickly, tent with foil.) Let bread cool slightly in pan on a wire rack, about 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around edges of bread to loosen; unmold. Let cool completely on rack.
  • Make ganache: Put the remaining 3 ounces chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until just about to simmer. Pour cream over chocolate; stir until mixture is smooth. Let stand 10 minutes to thicken slightly. Using a small offset spatula, spread ganache over cooled cake; let stand until set, about 1 hour. Bread can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 2 days.
  • CORNBREAD!

    Cornbread represents the “glories of gold”. (Cornbread is very commonly found in Southern New Year’s day cuisine as a side item to Hoppin’ John and collard greens!)

    Photo from Flickr

    LENTILS!

    In Italy, lentils are often eaten on New Year’s Day, because the tiny seeds are thought to represent wealth.

    Here is a recipe for VEGETARIAN LENTIL SOUP (for all of you vegetarians like me out there!):

    Ingredients:

    • 1 tsp vegetable oil
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 1 carrot sliced
    • 4 cups vegetable broth
    • 1 cup dry lentils
    • 1/4 tsp pepper
    • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
    • 2 bay leaves
    • dash salt
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice

    Preparation:

    In a large pot, sautee the onions and carrot in the vegetable oil for 3-5 minutes until onions turn clear.Add the vegetable broth, lentils, pepper, thyme, bay leaves and salt.

    Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until lentils are soft, about 45 minutes. Remove bay leaves and stir in lemon juice before serving. Makes 4 servings of lentil soup.

    Nutrition Facts One serving provides approximately:
    Calories: 230, Calories from Fat: 27
    Total Fat: 3.0g, 5% Saturated Fat: 0.7g, 3%
    Cholesterol: 0mg, 0%
    Sodium: 852mg, 36%
    Total Carbohydrates: 33.0g, 11%
    Dietary Fiber: 15.6g, 62%
    Sugars: 4.6g
    Protein: 18.7g
    Vitamin A 37%, Vitamin C 12%, Calcium 5%, Iron 28%, Based on a 2000 calorie diet

    What are YOUR luckiest New Year’s foods? Send me an email or drop me a comment with your thoughts and ideas!

    NOW, GO HAVE AN  “It’s So Fabulous!” DAY!

    IF YOU WOULD LIKE HELP WITH MAKING YOUR HOME EVEN MORE FABULOUS, PLEASE CONTACT ME FOR AN IN-HOME OR ONLINE CONSULTATION  AT KIMBERLY@KNOTTINGHILLINTERIORS.COM

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    Stylish, sophisticated and dramatic, Kimberly Grigg brings her unique talents to client’s homes across the country and to her retail boutique, Knotting Hill Interiors. An award winning retail boutique and an award winning full service design firm, Knotting Hill offers luxury interior design, renovation and remodeling services, custom design, childrens rooms and nurseries and accessorizing. The retail boutique sells fabric, home furnishings, retail design, lamps, accessories, art, upscale furniture consignment, gifts, fashion and jewelry. Voted “Best on the Beach” in both retail and design, our customers say that this place and this process is truly “enchanted”! Knotting Hill Interiors is based in Myrtle Beach South Carolina and has two locations at 7753 North Kings Hwy and 7751 North Kings Hwy.