Corned beef hash offers scope for imagination

October 8, 2012

We made corned beef and roasted potatoes for dinner last week. And as much as we enjoyed that meal, we were already thinking about breakfast. The corned beef wasn’t homemade, but a commercially brined brisket that came packaged with spices for the simmering step. The potatoes weren’t homemade, either, but an organic brand of oven fries seasoned with garlic and rosemary.

The first meal took about three hours for the corned beef to become fork-tender and for all the fat to render into the cooking liquid. As the meat rested off the heat, the potatoes crisped in the oven in about 25 minutes. All we added were generous dollops of mustard to the sliced beef and ketchup on the fries for a simple, savory Sunday dinner.

Our breakfast meal was even easier (a good feature, since we were headed out of the house early that morning). Leftover slices of corned beef and potato wedges chopped into a dice were tossed in a skillet with minced onion and some canola oil. The meat turned deep red with hints of brown while the potatoes shared their scents of rosemary and garlic. The onion added just enough moisture to keep things from sticking to the bottom of the pan as we fried our eggs over another burner.

For those of you who prefer corned beef hash with the consistency of pureed baby food, this recipe isn’t for you. To successfully imitate canned hash, you need to grind the meat in a blender or food processor before cooking it with the onions and potatoes. Here, we left the individual ingredients in recognizable pieces, giving them the chance to assert their personalities.

Fried eggs or eggs over easy are the traditional topping for a plate of corned beef hash, although I’ve seen versions that toss on grated cheese or stir in a white sauce. The version in the photo is reasonably low in salt and calories because we kept to the basics, used a nonstick skillet and spiced the dish with pepper instead of salt.

If you follow the method of making hash from leftovers and use frozen oven fries, look for the brands with minimal seasoning. Spicy types have much more added salt and fat than the bag of Alexia we used. Alternatively, select frozen shredded potatoes without any added flavorings. Corned beef and other dishes made with it should not be salty. All those hours of simmering help extract excess salt and liquefy the fat (you’ll see it floating in the water like oil in a puddle).

The word hash comes from the French hacher, to chop, which explains why the ingredients are minced or pureed. As you may imagine, you can prepare an endless variety of dishes that would rightfully be called hash. The corned beef could be replaced with roast beef, and sweet potatoes could substitute for the white potatoes. Additions like roasted parsnips or beets can change the colors and flavors. Chicken can work in hash, as long as the other ingredients are bold enough to overcome a bland beginning. Ground or shredded pork is a favorite in Hawaiian pork hash, used to stuff steamed dumplings.

I’ve included my recipe for corned beef hash made from leftovers, a basic starting point for your experimentation. As a departure from the familiar, here’s an offbeat version of hash that features roasted winter squash, chicken and apples; for bolder flavor, replace the chicken breasts with chopped chicken sausage. And, if you’re browsing the internet for hash recipes, be sure to specify food in the search or you’ll end up with instructions for baking psychedelic brownies.

Squash & Chicken Hash

1/2 butternut squash
1 Granny Smith apple
1 onion
1/2 red bell pepper
1 or 2 chicken breasts
2 T olive oil
1/4 t crumbled sage
salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 475 F. Remove skin and seeds from squash and chop into 1/2-inch cubes. Place the squash on a cookie sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake, stirring often, until softened and brown spots begin to show, about 30 minutes. Core, peel and cube apple; set aside. Chop onions; set aside. Core, seed and chop pepper into medium dice; set aside. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch cubes and add to skillet along with oil, onions and pepper. Cook over medium, tossing often, until cooked, about 12 minutes. Add apple chunks and cooked squash; sauté until starting to brown. Season to taste with crumbled sage, salt and pepper. Yield: 2 to 3 servings.

Leftover Breakfast Hash

1 t butter
1 diced onion
1 T canola oil
1 C diced cooked corned beef
2/3 C diced cooked potatoes
Cracked black pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a skillet and sauté onion until translucent. Add canola oil, chopped corned beef and potatoes. Cook over very low heat until a crisp crust forms. Turn and cook the other side. Season to taste and remove to serving plate. Top with fried or over-easy eggs. Yield: 2 servings of hash.

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