Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hashin' Things Out

Thanks to nine days and nights of birthday fun, my jeans are a little tight this week.

In an attempt to re-set my digestive track, and cease the exponential rate of expansion currently underway on my waistline, I've been taking the stairs at work (which equates to four flights, approximately 8 times per day, up and down).  Also, it's back to eating a lot of veggies, reasonable amounts of protein, and a whole hell of a lot less carbs.  It's sad, I know.  Believe me, I know.  I love carbs.  I love carbs soaked in bacon and dipped in cheese.  But let's face it, a carb-heavy diet when you aren't running marathons is No Bueno.  Unless you like buying your clothes from Omar the Tent Maker.

The hardest part for me, with regards to restricting carbs in any form, is that Red Beard doesn't need to restrict anything, ever, except maybe soda.  He loves carbs and thanks to having the metabolism of a hummingbird he can eat carbs constantly and in large quantities and still wear the same belt every day.  And they try to tell us that men and women are created equal.  Liars.

Last night, in an effort to both increase our veg intake AND get dinner on the table in half an hour, I made hash.  Really nice, meaty, kind of spicy kind of sweet hash with runny eggs and a green salad.  Yes, there were potatoes involved, but only a fraction of the amount I would have liked (only 1/3 of the entire mix!).  AND, for those of you who insist on being all vegetarian, this is easily converted to meatless.  Okay, if you ditch the eggs and butter, it's easily vegan as well.  It was also filling enough that Red Beard didn't need to go back for seconds - this is a huge deal.  One of my biggest gripes about low-carb food is that is just isn't as filling as a plate of pasta or a baked potato.  Between the veggies (which you hardly notice because they are all super finely chopped and well-hidden) and the spices, no one will go away hungry!

Side note:  Food processors.
If you don't have one, get one.  Seriously.  It doesn't have to be expensive or fancy.  I happen to have a Cuisinart only because it was a mommy hand-me-down.  But it doesn't really matter if all you can afford is the $29.99 Black and Decker at Amazon or the $34.88 Hamilton Beach over at Horrible Wal-Mart.  Just get one!  They are completely worth the investment.  Not only for hash, but for 1,093 other recipes, both ones I'll be sharing with you here and all over the planet.  Some examples are stuffing (like for turkey), deviled eggs, tapanades, salsas, salad dressings, any dip a chip would ever want to meet, fresh pasta, ravioli fillings, lasagna fillings, pie dough ... you name it.    A food processor will save you time and energy and you will want to cook more often because it is just THAT MUCH FASTER.  Even better, as much as grating and slicing blades can come in handy, you really only need two things - the standard choppy choppy blade it come with (usually stainless steel) and the dough blade (usually plastic).    Okay.  Off of my soapbox now.

And on to hash!
Imagine the ooze potential of that egg yolk.

The meat I used this time is leftover pork roast that's been pulsed in the Cuisinart.  It's from Christmas and it's been hanging out in the freezer since Dec 26th.  I've also used turkey and beef (though the beef can't be rare for it to chop nicely, you have to roast off the leftovers until there isn't any pink left, then whir it).  We never manage to finish leftover roasts, no matter how many sandwiches I fix, especially when it's pork.  Leftover chicken is a whole other story - chicken and dumplings, enchiladas, tacos, roasted pepper and goat cheese pasta ... oh so many uses!  Once the meat is whirred, just store it in the freezer, in a zippy bag.  It's easy to pull out a cup or two here and there, for hash or meaty pasta sauces or pasta fillings (ravioli, rigatoni, lasagna, and tortellini).   I don't even mind turkey hash if it's been ground down - and I hate turkey with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.  

The ingredient list, minus the green salad fixin's, is pretty easy peasy:

Frozen hash browns, finely chopped pork, onions, celery, garlic, carrots, bell pepper, parsley, thyme, & sage.

I was nice enough to pay attention to my measurements, but really, it's more about ratio.  These amounts will serve four normal people OR myself and Red Beard with just enough leftover for him to have the rest as a second breakfast (like Hobbits, he eats a lot during the day ... breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, lunch, dinner, tea, supper ....).  Add more as needed, depending on how many people you're feeding:
  • 2 cups finely chopped pork
  • 2 cups frozen hash browns
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 a large onion (or in my case, 1/4 white onion & 1/4 red onion)
  • 1/2 of a bell pepper (any color you happen to have)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 stalk of fresh sage
  • 1 stalk of fresh thyme
  • a small handful of fresh Italian parsley

Please ignore the eggs shown above.  The eggs are an extra, a topping, a perfect compliment.  They do not actually go into the hash.  And because I forgot to add it to the first picture (I'm a dork, yes, I know):

Butter, olive oil, apple, salt, & pepper. And an apple!

This isn't rocket science, it's hash.  It's really hard to screw up.  You'll also need:
  • 1/2 of an apple (I like granny smith, but whatever you've got)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup white wine or chicken stock (not pictured at all because I'm just that smart)
Chunk up your veggies and pitch them and your fresh herbs into your handy dandy food processor because you ran out to buy one when you read the note above, right?.

It doesn't have to be pretty; let the machine do the work.

PULSE repeatedly until everything is finely chopped.  Do not (repeat, DO NOT) turn on and walk away.  You'll end up with mush.  Mush isn't yummy.  Or, in the words of the genius Alton Brown, mush just isn't "good eats".

Do you know how long this would have taken with a knife??

Voila!  In less than 30 seconds, you're done chopping. Now preheat your oven to 250ºF.  I know, again, I'm making you pre-heat your oven.  You may as well get used to it, it's going to happen a lot.  Also, if you're going to continue cooking with me, I recommend buying your onions, garlic, bell peppers, and butter in bulk.  Like Costco-sized bulk.  Butter stores great in the freezer, while onions and garlic can live in the pantry.  The peppers are the only thing that need fridge space.

All good pans start with butter & a little olive oil to raise the smoke point.

Heat a skillet with some olive oil and one tablespoon of the butter.  Add your veggies to the pan once the butter is melted.  Stir them once in a while, letting everything get nice and hot and happy.

If nothing else, it's a pretty color.

After about 5 or 6 minutes, add your meat.  Mix well and let the meat and veg make friends for 3 or 4 minutes.  They'll be BFF's in no time!  One of the tricks to this is let all the ingredients have time in the pan without rushing them. 

Notice how the meat looks pretty close to the same amount as the veg ... hmmmmm.

Now add your hashbrowns.  Try and break apart any frozen lumps before you chuck them into the pan.  I like to get a little violent and bash the bag (unopened) on the counter a few times.  It's really noisy.  After 2 or 3 minutes, add your liquid.  I used white wine.  If you really insist, you can use chicken stock.  But trust me, wine is best.

And we're starting to get somewhere.

Once your liquid is absorbed, add the other tablespoon of butter.  Also, add salt to taste and as much pepper as you think you can stand.  Once the butter is melted and you've stirred it all together, and adjusted your seasonings ...

This is really important!

... Squish the whole mixture into a ginormous pancake and LEAVE IT ALONE.  Now is when we're going for those lovely crusty brown bits that make the whole thing taste sensational.

After a minute or two, check a small section.  If it's getting some good color, NOW you can stir.  Flip it all around, and make a big ugly mess.

Making a mess is fun!

Then squish it back out.

And we're back to being adult orderly.

Keep repeating every couple of minutes until it's as brown and toasty as you like it.

So easy to pretend that it's all just a pile of meat, potatoes, & onions.  Veg?  What veg??

When it's done, transfer the hash to an oven-safe dish, cover with foil, and stick it in your nice hot oven to keep warm while you're cooking your eggs (I prefer sunny-side up, for the ooze potential, but whatever) and tossing your salad.

See all the white space on the plate?  This is my portion.  Red Beard's plate has 2 eggs & looks like Mt Everest.  I also think I need a new camera that doesn't make hash look like rice.

When you're done, you'll have something that has approximately 957 servings of veggies (in the hash alone, nevermind the salad), is super filling and wonderfully peppery and meaty, and won't make you feel like a beached whale when you're through with dinner.


To all of my veg-head friends:  Obviously, omit the meat.  Either cook 2 cups of sliced mushies (sauteed please until they are starting to brown, with a little butter and olive oil .. or just olive oil) OR approximately 2 cups of tofu (sauteed until starting to brown in whatever the heck you cook tofu in) broken up into bits.  Then add at the same point as I say to add the pork.  

To all of my beef loving pals:  Trade out the sage for rosemary, and use red wine instead of white.  Also, add a handful of mushrooms to your veg mix when you're whirring.  Beef likes mushrooms and red wine and rosemary.

Printable version now available at Tasty Kitchen! (click me! click me!)


  1. I have never made hashbrowns like this! Mine have always just been plain ol potatoes. This looks great and perfect timing for st paddy's coming up! :)

    1. Traditional hash recipes usually involve diced (fresh) potatoes (and corned beef, but that's another rant) - I don't like the time it takes them to cook. And I really don't like the time it would take to par cook them pre-frying. Hence the use of frozen pre-prepared 'taters. So much faster. I can be a little difficult to find the shredded potatoes loose vs. already in patty form but Trader Joe's is my hero, LOL. Let me know if it works for you!