Hash doesn't really say "haute cuisine." But hash's bad rep is just a bum rap, and as more and more chefs are adding it to their menus, hash is making a comeback.
"Definitely there's a renewed interest in hash," said Patrick O'Connell, owner and executive chef at The Inn at Little Washington, which for three decades has been producing fine American cuisine about an hour outside the nation's capital.
Why you need to learn this
"The U.S. has always had an inferiority complex regarding food," O'Connell said. "But we've gotten past that, and we want to rediscover our roots and elevate them. And when you do it well, people are just bowled over, particularly when something so basic as hash can be so absolutely sublime.
"It's versatility itself, and it's a great way to extend meat by adding veggies."
For vegetarians, O'Connell suggested substituting root vegetables for meat. "It's a great idea that lends itself to whatever you have on hand."
The most important part of making a good hash is understanding the ingredients.
"Typically, hash includes a protein meat, a starch and a vegetable," said executive chef and partner Robert Price of the Buckeye Roadhouse in Mill Valley, Calif. Some hashes also include a binder to hold them together. After that, there are various flavoring elements.
Ingredient proportions are standard but not strict. Protein and starch appear in roughly equal amounts, with the vegetable generally making up about a quarter to half of that total.
Protein: Muscle consists largely of protein, and restaurant professionals use this term to refer to all meat, poultry and seafood. Obviously, the most well-known hash protein is corned beef, but any cooked protein — pot roast, pork tenderloin, smoked salmon, sausage — will work.
Starch: Cooked white potatoes are the most common, but sweet potatoes or even corn can be substituted. As a general rule, red potatoes or Yukon gold work a little better than russets because they hold their shape better when they're cooked.
Vegetable: Sauteed onion is, if not an absolute necessity, certainly very popular. Second to onion would be bell peppers and garlic. After that, anything else from asparagus to zucchini can be added if you're just trying to clean out your fridge.
Binder (optional): The precooked ingredients in a hash, when formed into patties and sauteed in oil, will tend to be somewhat crumbly without a binder. That's not a value judgment, just the way it is. If you like the texture of crumbly hash, leave out the binder. If you prefer your hash to hold its shape, mix in some raw egg or custard (egg mixed with a dairy product, such as cream). Figure about one egg for every cup of protein. The more egg you add, the stiffer your final hash. Cream will soften the hash — the more the softer.
Flavorings: Season your hash with salt and pepper. Then you can add your favorite herbs or spices, hot sauce, mustard, Worcestershire, soy sauce or anything else you think will contribute.
The steps you take
Imagine we're using 2 cups each of meat and potatoes, 1/2 cup onion, 1 egg and a couple teaspoons of minced rosemary.
1. Gather the cooked ingredients and cut them into small or medium dice. (If one or more ingredients are not already cooked, such as potatoes, dice them and cook them in oil until they're done, about 15-20 minutes.)
2. Toss all cooked, diced ingredients with the optional binder and any flavoring ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.
3. To cook, simply form into a large or several small patties by hand and cook in butter or vegetable oil until crispy on one side. Flip and cook until crispy on the other side.
Duck and corn hash with tomato sauce
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
If you don't want to use duck, use chicken, turkey or corned beef instead. Feel free to experiment. Top each serving with a fried or poached egg and a garnish of watercress, if you like.
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, diced
3 tablespoons each: white wine, Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped each: basil, parsley
1/2 teaspoon each: salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 stick butter, cubed, chilled
1 pound raw or smoked skinless duck breast, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
6 green onions, chopped
1/2 small red onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
For sauce, heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots; cook, stirring, until softened, 1 minute. Add the tomato paste; cook 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, white wine, vinegar, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Heat to a boil.
Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cubed butter, a little at a time, to incorporate.
Meanwhile, for hash, mix together duck, corn, onions, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup of the sauce. Heat oil in a non-stick pan; add hash.
Cook until lightly browned on one side, about 4 minutes; turn. Cook until browned on other side, 3 minutes. Serve hot.
Per serving: 349 calories, 53% of calories from fat, 21 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 123 mg cholesterol, 21 g carbohydrates, 22 g protein, 504 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.
This shrimp hash from chef Patrick O'Connell of The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia ends with little cakes, which are browned in the skillet. O'Connell also adds lobster to this hash for a special celebration meal. The cakes can be made up to 12 hours ahead. — Bill Daley
Prep: 40 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
½ cup shrimp or chicken stock
2 teaspoons tomato paste
¼ cup whipping cream
1 large Yukon gold potato, peeled, diced
3 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons diced green and red bell peppers
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
2 ½ tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ teaspoon grated, each: lemon zest, orange zest
3/4 pound raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 egg, beaten
Combine the shrimp stock, tomato paste and whipping cream in a small saucepan. Heat to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until reduced by half. Cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, boil the potato in a saucepan of salted water to cover until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain; set aside.
Cook the onions in a skillet over medium-high heat in 1 ½ tablespoons of the oil until lightly browned. Add the peppers; cook until tender. Add the garlic; cook 1 minute. Add the cooked potato; cook until lightly colored, about 10 minutes.
Remove the cooked vegetables to a bowl. Add bread crumbs, flour, parsley, the lemon and orange zest, and shrimp. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the egg; fold together gently until just combined. Shape the hash into cakes about 3 inches in diameter. At this point, the cakes can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours.
When ready to serve, heat the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons of oil in a large skillet; fry the cakes until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels; serve with sauce.
Per serving: 354 calories, 47% of calories from fat, 19 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 200 mg cholesterol, 27 g carbohydrates, 19 g protein, 578 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.