One of my favorite childhood special breakfasts was corned beef hash with a poached egg on top. First the can of corned beef was opened at both ends, then the solid cylinder was pushed out of the can, sliced into perfect 3/4″ circles and fried on both sides. While the circles cooked, eggs were poached and bread was toasted. I loved that breakfast.
At some point in adulthood all canned meats (remember deviled ham?) looked way too much like Alpo to me, and I opted for fresh.
Years later for a house party weekend at our cabin, I decided to make corned beef hash on the wood stove. It took three days! Day one, the wood stove was fired up and the corned beef cooked for 6 hours. Day two, the meat was drained and chopped, then onions and green peppers were peeled and chopped and it all was tossed together in a large bowl (I forgot to mention that there were 12 hungry hikers/ fishermen/ swimmers/ explorers). Day 3, very early in the morning the stove was fired up again, a huge cast iron pan was oiled and heated, and the hash was fried, covered and then uncovered for what turned out to be almost an hour. I wasn’t sure the potatoes would ever soften, let alone release their starch and bind the hash.
The hash turned out to be pretty tasty (fresh tomato salsa helped) and much more appetizing looking than the mashed canned hash of my childhood, but the preparation time-to-reward ratio was at the long end of not worth it.
A few decades slipped by before I longed to take on hash again. It happened a few days ago when I saw a 2 1/2# corned beef brisket on sale. Why not try one more time, maybe serving 4 instead of 400.
The result? Delicious and easy to prepare in less than an hour from start to finish. A perfect spring dinner in front of a fire or weekend breakfast with hot biscuits or scones.
Corned Beef Hash
- Most supermarkets carry fresh corned beef in a sealed bag of curing brine with pickling spice. If it is not on hand it can be ordered.
- The starch in potatoes binds and holds the hash together. Russet potatoes are best because they contain more starch than other varieties. A small (3/4″) dice cut of potatoes and onion binds more easily than larger cuts. Cooking them together first before mixing them with meat is important.
- Use traditional yellow onions rather than red or sweet onions like Walla Walla and Maui. Sweet flavor doesn’t work with the corned meat.
- Cooking the meat in a pressure cooker really saves time. Traditional oven or stovetop braising works, but it takes at least 2 hours.
- Corned beef has marinated in salty brine so you probably won’t have to add much more salt. Black pepper adds an essential flavor to the beef, so it is an important spice addition. Hot sauce will accentuate the all the flavors in the hash.
One 2 1/2# corned beef brisket, drained
2 large yellow onions, peeled
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced (hold in cold water until they are ready to cook)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper or more to taste
Red Hot Sauce to taste
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
- Remove brisket and pickling spice package from bag. Discard the brine and bag. Rinse brisket with cold water and put it into a pressure cooker or braising pan. Add one chopped onion, 2 cups water and cook according to manufacturers directions (30 minutes at medium high pressure minutes). For stovetop or oven, braise at 325º F for 1-2 hours in covered heavy pan.
- While the beef cooks, dice second onion and drain potatoes. Heat 3 tbs. oil in a skillet. Add onion and potatoes and mix. Cover and cook on low heat until the potatoes are soft enough to prick easily with a fork and the onions are cooked through. Uncover the pan and take it off heat.
- Take brisket off heat (release pressure and then remove lid) or out of the oven. Test for doneness with a fork. It should be tender enough to cut easily but not quite as tender as pulled pork. If necessary resume cooking.
- When the brisket is done take it out of the liquid and set aside to cool for about 5 minutes. Then cut it into bite size pieces and combine them with the cooked vegetables. Taste and add hot sauce to suit your taste.
- In a large, preferably non-stick skillet heat 3 tbs. oil over medium high heat. Put hash mixture into the skillet and slightly press the surface. Fry it uncovered until it is crusty and brown on the bottom. While it is cooking taste the hash and add salt to taste and more pepper or hot sauce if necessary.
- When the bottom is crusty and brown, gently insert a spatula under the crust to make sure it will slide off the skillet. Place a plate large enough to cover the hash upside down over the hash and carefully, using hot pads and holding the plate firmly over the top of the hash, turn the skillet upside down so the hash is crust side up on the plate. Add a little more oil to the skillet and slide the hash, crust side up into the skillet. Cook until it is crusty on the bottom.
- To Serve: Cut the hash into 4 servings and divide among heated plates. Serve plain, with room temperature ketchup, fresh salsa, sour cream or topped with a poached egg on each serving.