Hoppin’ John Risotto

October 28, 2012

With the fast approach of Hurricane Sandy, the last gasp of summer that we had this week is officially over, so it’s time to turn to fall comfort food at its finest. Hoppin’ John is a dish consisting of black-eyed peas, rice, onions, and bacon; it’s traditionally served in the South on New Years’ Day and is thought to bring good luck and prosperity throughout the year. This version from Gourmet Today fancies the dish up by turning it into a risotto and topping it with caramelized onions.

Unlike other risottos I’ve made, this one doesn’t call for bringing the chicken broth to a simmer and then adding small amounts bit by bit. Instead, they just keep it at room temperature, add half at a time, and stir occasionally. The rice was slightly less creamy by using this method, but there’s so much else mixed in that it wasn’t particularly noticeable. It may be that constant stirring would cause the black-eyed peas to break apart. This is not a weeknight meal, although you can make the bacon and caramelized onions ahead of time and keep them in the fridge for a few days. That would shorten your cooking time for the risotto itself to about an hour including prep.

If I had to sum up the flavor in one word, it would be homey – no unusual or “mystery” ingredients (except maybe the pancetta) – yet the combination provides more complexity than you’d expect. Salty bacon, sweet onions, starchy beans, hints of wine and herbs: delicious! Add a side dish of winter greens (such as collards, kale, or turnip greens) and you have a perfect fall supper. Enjoy!

Hoppin' John risotto

Serves 6 as a main course, 10 as a side dish


  • 4  bacon slices, chopped
  • 3/4  stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 2  pounds yellow onions, halved crosswise and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Salt
  • 1  (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1  cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4  cup finely chopped celery
  • 1  tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 2½  cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • 1/2  cup dry white wine
  • 2  ounces diced pancetta (Italian unsmoked bacon)
  • 1  tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 8  cups chicken stock
  • 2  tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3  tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley


  1. Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-lined plate. Add 2 tablespoon butter to fat remaining in skillet and heat over moderate heat until foam subsides. Add yellow onions with ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Reserve ½ cup caramelized onions for topping and set remaining onions aside in skillet.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add red onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in wine, increase heat to moderately high, and boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add caramelized onions from skillet, black-eyed peas, pancetta, thyme, red pepper flakes, ¾ teaspoon salt, and 4 cups stock, bring to a strong simmer, and simmer briskly, uncovered, over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Add remaining 4 cups stock and simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid is absorbed and rice is just tender and creamy-looking, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and lemon juice, stirring until butter is incorporated. Divide risotto among bowls and sprinkle with bacon and black pepper. Top with reserved caramelized onions, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

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