Curt made hash the other night. As he was cutting and chopping meat and vegetables I was reminded of my Grandmother’s hash. It was pretty simple and you could count on having it if she had made a roast beef for Sunday supper. My sister and I would periodically stay over-night at Gram’s so we got to watch her cook many times and expected some of her regular dishes. When I asked my sister if she remembered hash it didn’t pop up in her memories. Instead she said , ” I vaguely remember Gram’s hash, I do remember creamed green beans and crunch-crunch and lentil soup.” Those were good memories too, I would add homemade apple pie. Yes, pie crusts from scratch and to die for! But we will revisit those another time, this is all about hash.
I don’t know why the hash sticks out in my mind because it was pretty simple. True peasant food. Leftover beef roast and boiled potatoes were cut into chunks. Raw onions were chopped in half and in half again. Then the meat grinder came out. It wasn’t fancy. It didn’t have a ton of attachments, maybe two different grind discs. It weighed a ton and it clamped on to the table. Some of you probably still have one of these lying around. Ours are going into the next garage sale.
Once it was attached to the table I got to turn the crank as Gram put meat, potato and onion chunks into the opening on top. Out the front through the blades came the hash. If the grinding got tough she would take over and I got to drop in the chunks.
After it was ground, it was done. I do not remember it being cooked or heated up. It was served cold. We loaded it on a piece of buttered white bread (cut about an inch thick), added ketchup, covered it with another piece of bread and ate up. I think my bread was cut a bit thinner but my great uncle Henry, who lived there, had the big slices.
Back to Curt’s hash. We also had a roast the night before. A nice small beef rump roast we had bought from Waseda Farms. With just the two of us there are always leftovers so the first question is what to make…memories bubbled up and I said “hash!” But when Curt started making hash the next night it looked way different than Gram’s. First off, he didn’t use a grinder but a knife. But I’ll let Curt tell the rest of the story.
Hash is a game of leftovers. No one starts out making hash from raw or prime ingredients. Its the little bit of meat and vegetables that were something more impressive the day before. I’ve had hash made from ground ingredients and I like it – it has a softer mushy texture and the flavors are pretty much forced together. But I also like foods where the individual ingredients maintain some of their own character while still blending with the other parts. So, I chop my hash ingredients rather than grind.
Guilty Pleasure: I like the hash that comes in cans – weirdly pink, mushy, too salty and sort of looks like dog food but it’s a food of the order of neon pink Hostess Sno Balls (those marshmallow/chocolate cake/coconut confections with the creamy center that you get out of unhealthy vending machines) – perfection in defiance of any logic. – Curt
Curt’s Basic Hash (with embellishments)
1 – 2 Cups of any chopped leftover meat. Corned Beef with some fat is best but roast beef, pork, chicken or or almost any already cooked and not too seasoned meat will do. Make sure to include some fat or skin for flavor, just chop it finer.
2 – 3 Cups of chopped starchy vegetable. Cold cooked potatoes (not mashed) are classic but carrots, parsnips, beets, celeriac or other root vegetables would work.
1 C. chopped raw onion
1/2 C. chopped raw celery
1/2 C. chopped raw bell pepper, any color
1 Tbs. Tomato paste
1/2 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
3/4 tsp. herb in total, to taste – thyme is classic but one or more of the following would probably be welcome: basil, oregano, marjoram, chervil, etc.
Salt and pepper
Beef or chicken stock. You can substitute leftover gravy or pan juice from a roast, just adjust the thickness with water to thin it out as needed. A dry white wine might work too.
Eggs, one per serving. (optional)
Saute the onion, celery and pepper in some olive oil until soft but not browned. Add the meat and leftover vegetables – mix. Season with a good shot of Worcestershire Sauce and some salt and lots of pepper. Make sure you taste the leftovers to judge how salty they are and dial back on the salt as appropriate (remember, if you use the stock you’ll get more salt anyway).
Add stock or other liquid to moisten the hash but not make a soup of it. Continue sauteing the hash, turning and mixing it from time-to-time scraping any crusty bits off the bottom and edges of the pan. Continue sauteing until most of the liquid is either absorbed or evaporated, the hash is richly colored with some crustiness around the edges. To give the hash a rich finish you can add some milk, half-and-half or even cream towards the end (we had some leftover gravy). It will give the hash a browner finish but watch it carefully to avoid it burning. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
Once the hash is done but before it gets too dry, make several wells in the hash and crack a whole egg in each. Put a lid on the pan and continue cooking over lowered heat until the eggs whites are set but the yolks are still runny (or not, depending on your preference.) Serves 2 – 3.