Hash for Empty-Nesters – More Lessons Learned over the Years

May 3  – May 9, 2021

Alas, no photos of this week’s featured dish, but here are some of the azaleas at Casa Stuarti. Apologies for the post and screening, but the deer around here are voracious and eat pretty much all of our plants that they can get to.  If you come to the house, protect your children and small pets from our feral ungulates

Monday:                   Hash of Strip Steak with potatoes, onions and peppers

Tuesday:                   Pasta with Celery-Tomato Sauce and Pancetta

Wednesday:            Lunch:  Salad: Roasted Asparagus and Arugula and Eggs                               Dinner:  Tortillas with Carnitas (Cinco de Mayo)

Thursday:                 Tabbouleh with home-made Pita

Chestnut Blossoms – forget to photograph the salmon

Friday:                       Grilled Salmon with Parsley Sauce and Leftover Tabbouleh

Saturday:                  Chicken Burgers

Sunday:                     Brunch:  Tunisian Frittata with onions, potatoes and chicken                                        Smoked Salmon with Bagels, capers, onions, egg and a scmear

Hey!  Everyone, calm down.  This is not about recreational substances.  The ‘hash’ I’m writing about is a way to use up the leftover meat that small families (singles, couples) end up with after grilling steak or roasting chicken or sautéeing chops.  You could, of course, simply heat up those leftovers.  But that is boring, probably too much red meat for most of us, and a dereliction of culinary duties.  Far better to repurpose that leftover strip steak or pork chop as just one element of a savory mix of sautéed potatoes, onions and peppers (and scallions and garlic and zucchini or squash, et. al.) seasoned with salt, ground pepper and herbs and moistened with a little stock or water and Worcestershire or Soy.  This is a Western alternative to that excellent Eastern invention of the Stir-fry.  Done correctly, these dishes are irresistible.

Last Sunday, Rick, Beez and I had some excellent New York Strips.  But without the other guests we’d planned on, try as we might, we could not finish those babies.  So, on Monday, with green, red and yellow bell peppers, and some parboiled new potatoes and a lot of onion and a little beef stock and powder of dried porcini and a little cumin and salt and pepper, we created a hash so good that we used it as a filling for our Cinco de Mayo tacos on Wednesday.

The key to a good hash is building layers of flavor into all your ingredients before you add them together.  So, you might want to caramelize the pieces of steak, and you definitely want to get a good brown crust on those potatoes.  Peppers take longer to soften than onions and you’ll want to get a little caramelization on them both.  And you might even want to reduce whatever sort of sauce you’re creating to concentrate it’s flavor.

There is no exact recipe here.  You should try to balance the pith of the meat with the crunch and savor of the vegetables and spices and the crusty heft of the potatoes.  If you’re from Pittsburgh, you’ll probably put ketchup on your hash – Beez would advise it.

I’m continuing to follow Barbara’s advice (“write about the lessons you’ve learned over the years when cooking”).  The smell of fried onions, peppers and potatoes (a necessary part of hash) has the same effect as a dinner bell on my family.  I have never understood why this dish is undervalued – consigned to a sort of lower tier of dishes.  You are welcome to make fun of it, but I’d advise you to listen up and learn how to make it, if you don’t know how.

Note:  you can mix and match any protein with vegetables and potatoes to make a good hash.  If you want to follow my general approach, see below.

No picture of hash – but here is some of the hash on the tortillas for Cinco de Mayo

Casa Stuarti Hash

Prepare the vegetables and protein:

Parboil cut up potatoes or those smaller potatoes most supermarkets offer these days.  When the potatoes are cool enough, cut them into bite-sized pieces.  You’ll want to cut up your protein into similar-sized pieces.  You should definitely chop a lot of onion, and a similar amount of bell pepper.  These can be small or medium-diced, not necessarily the same size as the potatoes or protein.

Heat up a skillet large enough to handle all of your ingredients – we have an excellent black-steel, non-stick skillet about 12 inches wide.  It is not only great to cook in, but it will strengthen your wrist.

I usually begin by getting a good sear on the protein – especially if it’s chicken.  Simply cook it in some butter and olive oil (neutral oil for chicken).  Our steak already had a good crust, so I cooked it briefly, to impart a little beef flavor and fat into the oil.  Remove the beef, chicken, pork or lamb to a separate plate.

Now you want to take your time with the peppers – adding a pinch of salt and pepper.  You want them to be soft but not browned just yet.  Remove the cooked peppers.

Add a little butter and oil as needed to keep cooking all the ingredients.

Now you want to soften the onions, add a pinch of salt – remove them to the plate with the peppers.

Next, cook those par-boiled potatoes until they brown and develop a bit of crust (I like to add a bit more salt at this point)– you’ll want to hold off putting them into the pan until you crank up the heat.

When the potatoes begin to brown, add more oil and butter to the pan if needed and return all of the other ingredients.  I keep some dried porcininear the stove – ground into an umami-enhancing powder – and I add this to the mix and stir to mix the ingredients together.  Your onions and peppers may begin to caramelize at this point, and that’s great.

If the hash looks too dry, add some beef stock or water and a dash of either soy or Worcestershire if you’d like.  Taste and correct seasonings and serve.  If you’re entertaining Pittsburghers, you’ll want to have some Heinz Ketchup on the side.

You’ll have to gauge the proportion of potato to protein to vegetable each time you cook this – and you can play with all sorts of vegetables, spices and herbs.  It’s a fun dish to cook, a tasty dish to eat, and a great way to use leftovers.