By 300 Sandwiches
I didn’t even drink that much on New Year’s Eve. E and I celebrated over dinner with our newly married friends at the Upper East Side restaurant La Bilboquet. It was packed with European regulars dressed in sport jackets and Herve Leger dresses and local families in their Sunday finest, even the school-aged kids were decked in Ralph Lauren!
The four of us danced, talked, ate some mid-priced bistro food and at midnight, we kissed and toasted to 2014. Then we danced in the middle of the room to loud dance music after the waiters pushed all of the tables back to the walls. Even the kids got down—one little boy had better moves than my own date (sorry, E).
Maybe it was the holiday madness catching up to me (or those two martinis last night), but I didn’t turn over in bed until 11:15 am on New Year’s Day. And it felt amazing! E made crepes for breakfast (a sandwich? Perhaps, but it wouldn’t have counted towards the 300 since he cooked them), and I had hoppin’ john ready for lunch.
Black eyed peas were a foreign vegetable to E. He admitted he’d never even seen them before I made them this week. But they’re a Jan. 1 tradition, particularly in the South, said to bring good luck in the coming year. I had them as a kid accompanied by cornbread and collard greens when my mom cooked holiday dinner, but I discovered hoppin’ john and wanted to try to make it myself.
The beauty of hoppin’ john is you can season it however you like, but typically the dish includes celery, onions, peppers, some herbs and the black eyed peas, usually seasoned with ham hock or bacon. I made my hoppin’ john before we headed out on NYE, knowing that I wouldn’t rise early enough New Year’s Day to cook. But instead of eating the dish in a bowl over rice, I wrapped rice, greens (kale for me, Boston Bibb lettuce for E; see Forbidden Foods list) and my hoppin’ john in flatbread for E and I to snack on right before our first workout of 2014.
If you’ve got extra black-eyed peas or hoppin’ john left over from your New Year’s Day brunch, make this up today for an easy sandwich. It’s warm and comforting—perfect for a January afternoon, especially if you need something to make you feel good if you’re headed back to work today like E and I.
1/3 pound bacon, chopped into small pieces
1/2 pound black-eyed peas, soaked, rinsed and drained
4 green onions, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 sprigs thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
2 bay leaves
3 to 4 cups water
1/2 cup cooked rice
2 pieces flatbread
Optional: kale, collard greens, or Boston bibb lettuce
The night before, or some 6 hours before you’re going to cook, soak peas in water. Rinse and drain. Then, cook your bacon over low medium heat slowly. When bacon gets nice and crisp, then add garlic and simmer on medium high heat for a minute. Then add onions, peppers and celery. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Next, add your peas, then thyme, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and red chili flakes, then stir. Add bay leaf and pour in the three to four cups of water. Stir, cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes to an hour, until the peas are tender, but not mushy.
When ready, drain the water, remove the bay leaf, and stir. You can add or alter spice as needed (I added more pinches of red chili flakes to finish the dish and before I made sandwiches.)
To make sandwiches: warm flatbread in skillet on stove for a few seconds on each side. Remove and lay out bread on cutting board. Layer on greens, rice and hopping john. Fold flatbread in, top and bottom first, then sides. Flip over, cut in half and serve.
P.S.: In case you’re wondering what flatbread I use for my wraps, it’s Damascus Bakeries Whole Wheat Roll Ups. They the perfect size and thickness for wraps, and don’t tasty dough-y like some flour wraps can be. No, Damascus isn’t paying me for the plug. I just buy their stuff all the time, and figured I’d share with you all when I find something I think is top notch.
P.P.S.: Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks again for your support in 2013, and best wishes for an awesome 2014!by