On one very late Wednesday night, I sat squished in between good friends, tucked away in the plush couch cushions. Clutching a bowl of pomegranate seeds in one hand and a spoon in the other, I sank further and further into the sofa as my mind reeled over Alton Brown’s mad scientist-esque ramblings on a very special episode of “Good Eats”: “Corn the Beef.”
Sometimes inspiration comes to you at the farmer’s market, sometimes at a restaurant, from a food blog or a cookbook. And sometimes Alton Brown dons yet another ridiculous Hawaiian shirt and dunks a whole brisket in brine for 10 days. While I don’t have the resources ($$) or wherewithal to make my own corned beef, it did inspire me to find the best of the stuff that I could for a deeply loved and oft-bungled dish: corned beef hash.
A week later, I found myself returning to the 24th Street Mission BART station in San Francisco from Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen with a pound of homemade corned beef in hand. After studying Alton Brown’s version and various traditional iterations of the dish, I developed my own recipe, which includes a very nontraditional ingredient, bacon, which prevents this version from being kosher. If you want your hash kosher, simply nix the bacon and add a teaspoon of smoked paprika to keep the smoky flavor in play.
Don’t shy away from adventure when inspiration strikes. Every great dish starts with a spark of enthusiasm and the vision to follow through. So enjoy my somewhat sacrilegious, but goddamned tasty, take on corned beef hash.
What you’ll need:
Serves 3-4 (3 comfortably)
1/2 pound of corned beef, finely diced
1/4 pound bacon, finely diced
2 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
splash of vinegar
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/2 cup red pepper, finely diced
1 large Russet potato, cut into two-inch chunks
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
What you’ll do:
- Put a big pot of salted water spiked with vinegar over high heat and bring to a boil. The vinegar helps to ensure that the potatoes remain firm throughout cooking, lest they disintegrate. We’re par-boiling the potatoes before we fry them to ensure the outsides get nice and crispy (this is crispy corned beef hash after all).
- In the meantime, prepare your potatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, corned beef and bacon. Besides the potatoes and garlic, every ingredient should be cut to about the same size for both even cooking and consistent texture.
- Once the water is at a rolling boil, dump in your potato chunks, turn down the heat to medium-high and cook for 15 minutes.
- While the potatoes cook, begin to heat up a cast iron skillet or other wide frying pan. Put in bacon fat or butter and, once hot, add the bacon bits to the pan. If this sounds like a lot of fat — it is. The ingredients we’re putting in take up a lot of oil so you may even need to add more later on.
- Once the bacon has been frying for three to four minutes, add the corned beef and fry until lightly browned, another four to five minutes.
- Add in the peppers, onion and garlic and continue to fry until the onions begin to soften, about five minutes. Remember to season with salt, pepper and cayenne during this step to layer in flavor.
- When the potatoes are only slightly resistant to your fork, drain them through a colander and run under cold water. When they’re not too hot to the touch, hash up your potatoes until They’re only slightly larger than your other ingredients, about 1/2-inch pieces.
- Add your potatoes to the skillet and season liberally with salt, pepper and cayenne. If you need to add more oil at this point, I recommend using avocado oil or olive oil — the potatoes will absorb a lot of oil.
- Place another cast iron skillet or heavy saucepan on top of your hash. This will help it brown and crisp up without having to turn up the heat. After five minutes remove the weight and using a spatula to turn the hash over for even cooking. Replace the weight and cook for another five minutes.
- While it fries, thickly slice good rye bread and pop it in the toaster. Spread with nice salted butter.
- When the hash is browned to your liking, portion it onto a plate with rye toast and a poached egg, and enjoy!
Sasha Ashall is the assistant blog editor. Contact Sasha Ashall at [email protected].