Many families make a special traditional meal on New Year’s Eve or day. For one friend, it’s cheese fondue, another always makes pasta with caviar, and someone I know buys all the shrimp she can afford and offers it, unshelled, spread out on newspaper like a crab boil.

For me, New Year’s Day just doesn’t feel right without Hoppin’ John and cornbread, and if these recipes sound familiar, I freely admit to trying (if my editors will let me!) to write about this food every year. Originating in the South, the dish is made of black-eyed peas, collard greens, and rice seasoned with smoked pork of some sort, and it’s is said to presage good luck and good fortune for the coming year. The origin of the name Hoppin’ John is uncertain, but the peas represent coins, the collards folding money, and the cornbread gold. How can anyone resist the possibility of absorbing a hefty portion of good fortune while partaking of an absolutely scrumptious dinner?

Black-eyed Pea and Collard Soup with Bacon

Sometimes the collards and peas are served over or with the rice. This year, my dish takes the form of a soup, spiked with lots of finely chopped bacon. Serve with the cornbread, add a tomato salad, and pass the bottle of Tabasco at the table.

Serves 6

6 slices bacon

1 large onion, chopped

1 large celery rib, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 (141/2-ounce) can chicken broth

4 cups water

1 bunch (1 pound or less) collard greens, thick stems removed and chopped

2 (15-16 ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained

1/4 cup raw white rice

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

Cook bacon in a large soup pot over medium-low heat until crisp and fat is rendered, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove, drain on paper towels, and reserve, leaving drippings in pan. You should have about 3 tablespoons fat; if less, make up the difference with olive oil.

Add onion, celery, and garlic to drippings and cook over medium heat until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add broth, water, and greens, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes. Add peas, rice, and salt and continue to cook for about 15 minutes, until rice and greens are tender. Use the back of a spoon to crush about one quarter of the beans against the side of the pot to help thicken the soup. Finely chop the reserved bacon, stir into soup, and season with black pepper to taste. (Can be prepared up to a day ahead. Reheat before serving.)

Check for seasoning, stir in vinegar, and serve.

Southern-style Sour Milk Cornbread

The North and South are still having a polite debate about cornbread – whether to add sugar, whether to use all cornmeal or to add some all-purpose flour, whether to use sweet or sour milk, whether to use glass or cast iron and preheat the baking pan or not. Since this meal has its roots in the South, I like to serve a southern-style cornbread with the Hoppin’ John, but this Maine Yankee cheats by adding a touch of sugar and some white flour to the batter. You can make your own sour milk as described in the recipe or use buttermilk.

Makes one 10-inch bread, about 6 servings

11/4 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

11/4 cups cornmeal

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

Stir vinegar into milk and let stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes until milk is lightly thickened and small curds begin to form.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Melt butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, and pour melted butter into a small bowl. Add vegetable oil to the pan, return to the stove, and heat until hot but not scorching. The batter should sizzle when it goes into the pan, creating a crisp bottom crust.

Whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Add eggs and soured milk to butter in smaller bowl, and whisk to blend. Pour milk mixture into flour mixture and stir gently but thoroughly to combine. Reheat pan if necessary, scrape batter into the hot pan, and smooth the top. Wear an oven mitt to transfer the pan to the oven.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes until top is pale golden and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cut into wedges and serve hot or warm.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

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