New Year's goodies. A duo of savory regional favorites

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

FROM the Deep South and the far North come two traditional American New Year's Day dishes. The Southern concoction of rice and black-eyed peas, called Hoppin' John, is a must for New Year's Day gatherings south of the Mason-Dixon line.

The other is tourti`ere, a French-Canadian pork pie made and served in Canada and in the northern United States wherever French-Canadian people are living.

Nobody really knows where the name Hoppin' John comes from. But one legend says it stems from the custom of inviting guests to dinner with the invitation to ``hop in, John.'' Another story describes a New Year's Day ritual in which children hopped around the table before eating their beans and rice.

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Whatever the genesis of the name, Hoppin' John's history shows that it was a staple dish of slaves on Southern plantations, especially those of the Gullah area of South Carolina. Today, it's the traditional New Year's dish in most of the South. Hoppin' John is usually eaten with greens - either turnip or collard. Some people make the dish with dried cowpeas (also called field peas), but if you have can't find field peas, use either dried or frozen black-eyed peas.

According to Bill Neal, in his book ``Bill Neal's Southern Cooking'' (University of North Carolina Press, $15.95), ``Hoppin' John is a sort of jambalaya with a light touch.

``Do not stew the elements into a homogeneous mush,'' Mr. Neal says. ``Each pea, grain of rice, chunk of tomato, piece of scallion should retain its individual identity, flavor, and texture.''

Many people have slight differences in their pea-and-rice recipes, but they all boil down to Hoppin' John in the end. Bill Neal's recipe calls for one cup of chopped fresh tomato, and he adds cheese just before serving. In his ``Dictionary of American Food and Drink,'' John F. Mariani lists the dish in the index as ``hoppin' jack,'' but in spite of the name change the ingredients are basic and traditional. Mariani's Hoppin' Jack 1 cup dry cowpeas (or black-eyed peas) 6 pieces bacon 1 chopped onion 1 chopped garlic clove Salt and pepper to taste 1 cup rice

Rinse cowpeas and boil in 8 cups water for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand in water 1 hour, then drain, reserving 6 cups of cooking water.

In skillet, saut'e bacon, onion, and garlic and add to pea mixture. Season with salt and pepper and add cooking water. Stir in rice, bring to boil and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Serves 8.

Note: Two cans (15 oz. each) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed, may be substituted.

The French-Canadian pork pie is made and sold in Canada and the northern United States. I found this particular recipe at the Isabella Gardner Museum Caf'e in Boston, where the chef, Lois McKitchen Conroy, says it's served traditionally on New Year's Day in her family. It's on the menu frequently in the museum caf'e.

French-Canadians admit there are no two recipes for tourti`ere that are exactly the same. Some are made with all pork; others a combination of pork and beef. Most have garlic and cloves. Some have celery salt or bread crumbs. Often the crust is made with lard and has an egg and some lemon juice or vinegar. Tourti`ere (French-Canadian Pork Pie) 1 1/2 pounds ground pork, blade or shoulder 1/2 pound lean ground beef 4 bay leaves 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 large white potato, peeled and diced 1 large white onion, diced 3 tablespoons flour 1 tablespoon ground cloves 1 teaspoon allspice 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground black pepper Pastry for double-crust pie

Gently simmer pork, beef, bay leaf, and garlic in water over low heat until meat is cooked through. Drain, reserving 1 cup of liquid. In large bowl, mash meat with potato masher until very smooth.

While meat is cooking, boil potatoes and onion until tender but firm, then drain, and add to meat mixture.

Warm reserved liquid over low heat and whisk in flour. Strain to remove lumps and add to mixture. Add spices and mix well.

Roll out pastry for bottom crust, place in pie tin, and add meat filling. Cover with top pastry, crimp edges, and vent top. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Serve with ketchup, baked beans, relishes, and pickles.

Phyllis Hanes is the Monitor's food editor.

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