Thursday, January 3, 2008

First Wine of 2008 and Hoppin' John!

Could not start out our New Year without tasting a New Wine! So to usher in 2008, I choose one of my favorite wines, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Sometimes it is hard to find a new wine to try that will fit into my wine budget. Oh sure there are MANY wines out today, but quite a few have price tags over $20.00. Those wines I surely like to try on special occasions, but for a bottle to pop open for a sipper in the evening, I must curtail my spending to under $15.00 and preferably under $10.00 for a week night. But this wine caught my eye as something new around $13.00. Gotta have it!

What a great find! I am talking about the 2006 Giesen Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Giesen grows their grapes in the Wairau Valley and their winery is located in the town of Blenheim which is situated in the southwest part of New Zealand. Unscrewing this one, aromas of vibrant citrus and intense tropical fruit weaved their ways to my nose. On my first sip of this wine I new it was going to be a favorite, as my palate enjoyed tastes of sweet gooseberries and that classic grassy, herbal flavor that is so distinct in New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. This is a nice, medium bodied wine with crisp, refreshing acidity that gives it a nice zip in your mouth on the finish. I think this wine would go great with a nice chicken dish with a side of asparagus. Yum!

Not only did we have a new bottle of wine to bring in the new year we also had a traditional dish that I serve every year on New Year’s Day – “Hoppin John”! This is one of those great Southern dishes with a fuzzy origin. Some say it was a staple of the African slaves on the plantations and, before that, was found throughout the Caribbean. In American folklore, one theory is that friendly hosts would invite their guests to stay for supper by saying “Hop in, John”. Today "Hoppin’ John" is a traditional dish served on New Years Day to bring luck in the coming year.

Deb’s Take On "Hoppin’ John"

Cook 1 lb. of black eye peas in 6 cups of cold water with a small onion quartered, a couple of bay leaves and 4 cloves of smashed garlic, and a ham hock (optional) for about an hour. Do not over cook the beans as you do not want them mushy. Drain removing bay leaves, onion and ham hock.
In a Dutch oven, cook about 4 slices of bacon, drain bacon on paper towels and chop. Then add 1 big chopped onion, 1 chopped green bell pepper, lots of fresh chopped garlic, 3 stalks of chopped celery and a couple of chopped but seeded jalapeno peppers to the pot. Sauté for about 7 minutes. Then add some seasoning – 1 tbsp of store bought Cajun seasoning, ½ teaspoon each of garlic and onion powder, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon cumin, 2 bay leaves and 1 tablespoon dried thyme.
Add a can of chopped tomatoes with their juice and a pound of sausage, your choice of smoked or kielbasa, sliced. Add peas back into Dutch oven, chopped bacon and pour a bit of chicken broth over all just to keep everything moist while baking.
Put lid on Dutch oven and place into a 325 degree oven for an hour and a half.

This dish is sooo good and comforting! I serve it with rice, as you can put the Hoppin’ John over the rice, and a nice skillet of corn bread. You surely can make this a vegetarian dish by omitting the ham hock and sausage and could use veggie broth to moisten the stew for baking.
I know this sounds like a lot of work, but actually it is not, just a lot of ingredients. Perfect for a cold winter evening as your oven will be cranking away!



Peter M said...

Deb, over the holidays I heard some FLA Keys Christmas music and I thought of you!

Happy New Year,


Wendy said...

Yum! I will definitely be trying this. :)
Steak pie is the traditional New Year's Day dish in Scotland. This year, however, I was feeling slightly worse for wear and went for a spicy vegetable curry.

Shayne said...

I really enjoy bean dishes and this one sounds full of flavor. mmmmm

Anonymous said...

I'd heard the name Hoppin' John before but never knew what it was :-) Sounds good and spicy - and I'm always happy to let the oven do most of the work for me!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

As always a wealth of knowledge about your wines Deb!New Years Day we usually go out for Chinese..I think I have done enough cooking by then and am tired of leftovers.I also didn't know the story behind hoppin' John...

Anonymous said...

I made Hoppin' John too. And collards--so I'll be really lucky and wealthy this year, right? Your recipe looks great, I must try it next year.

winedeb said...

Thanks Peter!

Hey Wendy steak pie sounds yummy, but I am sure the vegetable curry hit the spot!

Hi Shayne, it is totally full of flavors.

Hey Jen, I think you would enjoy it. A great healthy comfort food.

Hey Valli, I think you would like Hoppin John. Good during cold winter months.

Yum Sher! It would be a dish that would go great with greens!

Nora B. said...

Thi Deb,

The wine sounds refreshing. It will be almost impossible to find 2006 NZ Sauvignon Blanc in Sydney bottle shops these days. It's all 2007 and unfortunately, I have not been too impressed with the AU$15-$22 price range 2007 Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region. I should have bought more 2006.

Thanks for educating me about Hoppin John, I'm curious about how it would taste. Based on the ingredients, I'm sure that I would like it.

Have a great weekend!


Katie Zeller said...

Oooh that sounds good, perfect for our cold, damp January!
As to the wine, I am always rudely awakened when I am in the U.S. and go to the wine shops. We were just discussing a Spanish white (Enate) the other night that we used to consider inexpensive at 6.50 euros... Now that we live in France and have access to all the lovely Chablis and Loire valley wines that is expensive. 3.50 euors is inexpensive. (Cheap Spanish wines, as in under 2 euros, are really not drinkable)

winedeb said...

Hi Nora, yes, I am encountering the same thing on prices of wine. They keep rising! You would like the Hoppin John!

Hi Katie! Yep, as telling Nora, the prices of good wines keep climbing, which takes them out of everyday wine drinking and puts them into occasional tasting.

Shaun said...

Deb ~ The northern part of the South Island has spectacular sauvignon blancs; they're so good that they have given many a sauv/. blanc a good run for their money. Cloudy Bay is always exquisite, but I'm glad you have found an affordable and good Kiwi sauvignon blanc. If you get a chance, try Kim Crawford's, too, which typically has exquisite gooseberry notes.

As for Hopping John, I only found out about it a few days ago in the course of my reading various cultures that use legumes as a way to welcome in the new year. Anything with bay leaves has me...I'll be keen to try this as my new year's dish in `09.