Monday, December 28, 2015

Lucky New Year Fusion Hoppin' John!

     Lucky Fusion Style Hoppin' John!  Chinese Five Spice Adzuki Bean Hoppin' John with Spicy Sausage and Filé Powder Sushi Rice!
     Hoppin' John has its roots in traditional African cuisine.  Hoppin' John is more than just a pot of simmering beans.  Hoppin' John brings good luck for the new year!
     By old traditional African cultural customs, when Hoppin' John is served during the New Years celebration, guests who eat Hoppin' John are expected to count every whole uncrushed bean in their bowl.  The guest that has the most whole beans will have good luck and increased fortune in the new year!
     Hoppin' John was introduced to America a few hundred years ago and the African lucky bean counting tradition lived on.  Every state in the American south has regional versions of the Hoppin' John recipe.  Hoppin' John is not just southern style cooking, it is also Soul Food.  Any meal that brings luck and fortune is good for the soul!  
     Today's Chinese New Year Fusion Hoppin' John recipe is made with Adzuki Beans.  Adzuki Beans are native to the Himalayas.  Adzuki Beans have been used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine for a very long time.  Chinese New Year Lucky Mooncakes are usually made with Sweet Adzuki Bean Paste, so this bean already has a long standing reputation for bringing luck and good health in the new year.  Making Hoppin' John with both Adzuki Beans and Sweet Bean Paste could possibly double the luck in the upcoming year!
     Rice usually is part of a Hoppin' John recipe or rice is served on the side.  I made some sushi rice for today's recipe and sprinkled a generous amount of filé powder over the rice.  Filé powder is ground sassafras leaves and this spice has a unique aromatic flavor.  Filé powder is used to thicken traditional Native American stews.  Sassafras has medicinal properties that create a "feel good" effect. 
     Okra, onions, bell pepper and tomato are on the list of ingredients in most of the traditional Hoppin' John recipes of the American south.  Any kind of meat can be added to Hoppin' John, but pork is the top choice because it symbolizes wealth.  Spicy Pork Sausage is a good choice of meat for making New Years celebration fusion Hoppin' John.
     In Las Vegas, lucky superstitions run thick, especially on New Years Eve and during the Chinese New Year celebration.  Gamblers always have good luck charms in their possession or they have some kind of ritual that has brought good luck in the past.  
     Many Las Vegas Asian restaurants and gaming taverns offer a few menu items that bring good luck.  The words "Triple Seven" often are part of the name of a Las Vegas menu offerings.  In Chinatown, a Triple Seven entrée usually has many food items in the recipe that Asian customers recognize as having a lucky reputation.  Lucky Triple Seven Jackpot entrées are top sellers at Chinatown restaurants this time of year.  Chinese New Year Fusion Hoppin' John is definitely a "Chinese Soul Food Lucky Triple Seven Jackpot Entrée!"

     *Other than the bean preparation, this entire recipe yields 1 large hearty portion! 

     Adzuki Bean Preparation:
     This recipe yields 3 to 4 portions.
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of dried adzuki beans in fine mesh strainer and rinse them under cold running water.
     Place the beans in a container and cover them with 3" of extra water.
     Soak the beans overnight in a refrigerator.
     Drain the water off of the beans.
     Step 2:  Place the adzuki in a pot.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of pork broth.
     Add enough water to cover the beans with 2" of extra liquid.
     Add 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Step 3:  Bring the liquid to a boil over medium high heat for 17 minutes.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer the beans till they become tender.  Only add water, if the level of liquid drops below the beans.
     Keep the adzuki beans warm over very low heat.

     Spicy Sausage Preparation:
     Chinese style small spicy pork sausages or one large Italian spicy sausage are good choices for this recipe.   
     Heat a sauté pan over medium low/low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add a 5 ounce piece of raw Italian Spicy Sausage.  (or a few small Chinese style spicy sausages)
     Gently grill the sausage on all sides, till it is lightly browned and fully cooked.
     Set the spicy sausage aside and let it cool.
     Cut the sausage into large bite size pieces.

     Sushi Rice: 
     Short grain rice for sushi is a top grade rice.  When steamed, the grains of rice have a translucent quality.  The short grain sushi rice becomes sticky enough to hold its shape.  
     *1 cup of short grain sushi rice is more than enough for today's Hoppin' John recipe.
     *If you have a rice steamer, then follow the directions for the proportion of water needed for short grain rice or medium grain rice.  
     *If you have no steamer, then use a proportion of 2.1 parts water to 1 part rice.  
     Bring the water to a boil in a sauce pot.
     Add the short grain rice.  
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.  
     Cover the pot with a lid.  
     It may take 22 minutes for short grain rice to become tender, instead of the usual 20 minute rice cooking time.
     Cooling and Flavoring Sushi Rice:
     The technique of controlling the rate that sushi rice cools is the key to making great sushi rice.  A thick wooden bowl is used to cool the rice.  The wood becomes warm and it holds a constant proper temperature, while the rice is tossed and flavored with sweet vinegar.  The wood also absorbs some of the excess moisture that would normally evaporate, so it helps to keep the rice moist. 
     Step 1:  As soon as the rice becomes cooked tender yet not too soft, place the rice in a cedar bowl or any thick wooden bowl.  
     Immediately start stirring the rice from the bottom up, so it cools evenly at a controlled rate.  
     Step 2:  While the rice is hot, sprinkle just enough sweet sushi rice vinegar on the rice to give it a delicate sour flavor.  
     Step 3:  Continue tossing and stirring the rice, till it stops steaming.  
     Step 4:  Let the rice rest and become sticky, by allowing the rice to gradually finish cooling off with the heat that the wooden bowl captured.  
     Keep the rice at a room temperature or slightly warmer than room temperature.  Keep the rice covered, so it does not dry out.
     Chinese New Year Fusion Hoppin' John:
     Kashmiri Chiles are from India and they are one of the mildest chile peppers.  Any mild dried red chile pepper can be substituted.
     Step 1:  Heat a large sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 rondelle slices of onion that are 3/8" thick.  (rondelle = onion rings or round slices)
     Add 5 or 6 wide strips of green bell pepper.
     Add 3 cloves of coarsely chopped garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic becomes a light golden color. 
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 cups of the reserved prepared adzuki beans and the bean broth.
     Add 4 okra that are cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 1/3 cup of canned whole Italian plum tomatoes that are coarsely chopped.  Add a proportion of the tomato juices from the can.
     Add 2 Dried Kashmiri Chile Peppers that are crushed by hand.  (Remove most of the seeds.) 
     Step 3:  Add 2 to 4 pinches of Chinese chile powder.  (to taste)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice Powder.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of Chinese sweet bean paste.  (sweet adzuki bean paste for desserts)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.  
     Add 2 pinches of white pepper. 
     Adjust the seasoning with sea salt.
     Step 4:  Add the reserved prepared spicy sausage pieces.  
     Add just enough water to cover the ingredients with 1/2" of extra liquid.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer the Hoppin' John, till the vegetables become tender and till the level of liquid is less than the solid ingredients.
     Keep the Chinese New Year Fusion Hoppin' John warm over very low heat.

     Step 1:  Place a generous portion of the Chinese New Year Fusion Hoppin' John in shallow soup bowl or shallow noodle bowl.  Try to place a few sausage pieces and vegetables on the surface so they can be seen.
     Step 2:  Pack a small portion of the sushi rice in a small brioche pastry cup mold.
     Invert the rice mold onto the center of the Hoppin' John and remove the brioche cup.
     Dust the sushi rice with a few generous pinches of filé powder.  (ground sassafras leaves)
     Step 3:  Place 2 pickled green tabasco peppers on the rice as a garnish.
     Garnish the Chinese New Year Fusion Hoppin' John with 2 small mounds of cilantro sprigs.

     Viola!  This Chinese New Year Fusion Hoppin' John is a good tasting lucky entrée!  

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