Wicked Good Hash
Friday February 18, 2011
For my parents, and for generations before them, particular meals in Newfoundland were synonymous with a certain day of the week. Which meal and on what day undoubtedly varied from region to region, town to town and even between families in the same town for sure, but there was a custom and tradition to the whole thing, based around the seasons, and available ingredients. For instance, my mother tells me that in her household in Trinity Bay in the 1950s they had Jigg's Dinner every Tuesday and Thursday, no exceptions. Sometimes they would have straight up Jiggs, while other times there was a roast and gravy, usually wild game such as moose or rabbit. Fridays were likely fish (even though they were Protestant), Saturday was a soup day (either vegetable and rice or pea), and the rest of the week was either fresh fish, boiled beans (white beans, onions and salt meat) and likely another soup day. Lunches consisted of leftovers from the night before, fried potatoes, bread and of course fish, which could be cod, trout, salmon or capelin. I'm sure many of you reading will have your own memories of what your family ate on what day.
Growing up in rural Newfoundland when I did in the 1980s and 1990s, we didn't have a set or traditional menu for every night of the week like it used to be, with one exception. Every Sunday (and I mean every Sunday), we had what we would call "Sunday dinner" or "cooked dinner" (of course it was cooked right) and nine times out of ten we had it for lunch, not supper/dinner, even though most Newfoundlanders call lunch "dinner," but that's another story. Every Sunday Mom would have the full spread of potatoes, carrots, cabbage and turnip boiled with salt beef or salt spare ribs, peas pudding and all. In the oven there would be a roast of some kind, either a stuffed chicken, a chuck roast or a pork roast, and of course there was gravy to be smothered over the works of it. Making the gravy was actually one of my first jobs in the kitchen at home.
Finished plate of hash
You really can't beat a meal like this, and ask any Newfoundlander and I am sure they will tell you the same thing. One of the great bonuses of having a great meal like this were the leftovers. Mom always cooked more than we could eat on Sunday with the sole purpose of having "hash" on Monday for supper. If we had any meat and gravy left over to go with it that was grand, but if not we were happy enough to have some fried bologna (bolonie). Cooked in the cast iron skillet and served with the bologna and sides of ketchup, gravy, mustard pickles and pickled beets, it was a fine supper indeed. Growing up in my own little world around the bay, I thought hash was a Newfoundland thing, but apparently cultures all over the world do a similar thing with leftovers, and more often than not it includes leftovers from a boiled or roasted dinner, or something similar. In the US there is corned beef hash, a diner menu staple of fried (pre-boiled) potatoes, onion and minced corned beef. The British have "bubble and squeak," apparently named for the sound it makes while cooking. Bubble and squeak is very much like Newfoundland hash in that the leftover vegetables from a roast dinner are fried crisp in a shallow pan and served with pickles. In Denmark there is "biksemad"; Scandinavia has "pyttipanna," and my favourite of all is Scotland, which has "rumbledethumps"! I really think I have to come up with a more catchy name for our version besides just plain Jane boring "hash."
Since I moved away from Newfoundland I certainly do not have "cooked dinner" on a weekly basis, however I do try and make it with corned beef (which I love like you wouldn't believe) once every month or two (not enough I know). Last Sunday we did just that and had a huge scoff of boiled dinner with a roast turkey. The dinner was absolutely delicious and was enjoyed by my seven in-laws (one of whom is a Newfoundlander herself - my wife's brother's wife) and my wife and I. Luckily there were plenty of leftovers as I was dying for some hash the next day.
While I love my mom's hash, even at a young age I would tinker with mine to make it the way I loved it. My family would be sat down to the table eating away and I'd have my hash slid back into the fry pan trying to get it crispier. Eventually I started making the family hash, and would start off by sauteing some onion, and adding herbs. What I was going for was good texture and flavour throughout the hash. I wasn't looking to just warm up some leftovers, I wanted to get tender onions, crispy potato pieces, caramelized bits of cabbage and carrots, and juicy morsels of meat. With a little bit of TLC it isn't hard to do.
Leftover turnip, carrot, potatoes and cabbage ready to get hashed
Leftover meat (like salt beef, corned beef, roast chicken or turkey, pork roast or roast beef.
Herbs (dried savoury, fresh parsley or whatever you like)
Salt and pepper
Poached or fried eggs for on top (optional)
Sides, such as pickled beets, mustard pickles, bread and butter pickles.
You can cook your hash however you like and I'm sure it will come out very well. What I'd like to share is how I think you can maximize the flavour potential of your hash and get the best tasting hash you've ever had. Instead of throwing everything in a skillet at once and letting it heat through or get fried on one side, I stage the process to ensure that everything gets well crisped and certain things don't overcook. I like to use a large cast-iron skillet to make hash in, but a non-stick fry pan will also work great. I'm not giving amounts here, as you have to use whatever leftovers you have. Use the amount of onion according to how much hash you want to make and how much you like fried onions.
Crispy hash, just waiting for a fried egg
Heat some oil in the skillet over medium heat and add diced onion. Cook for a couple of minutes, increase the heat to medium high and add chopped potatoes. You can't beat fried spuds so I think it is imperative to get a crisp going on these. Add a little more oil if necessary. Once the potatoes have started to brown, add the cabbage. I never knew how much I liked cabbage until I had leftover cabbage rolls reheated in a skillet. The cabbage got all browned and caramelized on the bottom and the taste was out of this world. I try and recreate that taste with my hash, so I add it at this stage so it will get a chance to crisp alongside the potatoes. I also add my diced corned beef or salt meat if I have any left, as it gives off a little of its fat, which the spuds and cabbage love. Once these have browned and are crisp I add the chopped carrots, and whatever meat I have (the pictures above include turkey), mix it through, and then add the turnip. I usually season with salt and pepper and some dried savoury at this point and continue to cook for a couple of minutes until everything is hot. I love this hash for breakfast, lunch or supper, and I love having a runny fried egg on top as well. I certainly enjoyed eating my hash cooked this way, and I hope you will too.
I just have to come up with a catchy name for it. Share your suggestions by leaving a comment (above, right).
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About Me...The Wicked Newfoundlander
I'm originally from Newfoundland, Canada, and very proud of it! I moved to upstate New York in 2007, and I spend much of my time working and playing throughout New England. Besides my wife, our dog and hockey, I'm passionate about food. I love to cook and create great tasting food. I also love tasting and critiquing food, and comparing regional cuisine (notably Newfoundland and New England dishes).