Savoring the Season: Hashing out a recipe
By MARY MCCLINTOCK
I didn’t grow up eating corned beef hash, and, until last week, had no idea that hash can be made from many different kinds of meat, not just corned beef.
Recently, Nan Parati from Elmer’s in Ashfield sent her weekly email newsletter asking the Elmer’s “Board of Directors” for an opinion. Her “board” is the newsletter’s readership and regular customers.
Nan said: “We went from commercial corned beef to corning our own locally-raised, grass-fed beef. It’s very different from what we’re used to. What do you think?”
Even though I’d never eaten hash at Elmer’s, I was one of many folks who said, “Of course, stick with the local option!” Nan asked me to come taste the hash and chat about it. (Full disclosure: I always pay for my meals at Elmer’s and other local restaurants I mention in my column.)
When I thought about who might be interested in a hash-tasting field trip to Elmer’s, Diane Sievers was the first person to come to mind. Not only is Diane a fun friend, she loves preparing and enjoying good food and she grew up on a farm in Iowa where they raised their own beef.
Diane was indeed the perfect hash-tasting companion and hash-lore tutor! As we drove to Ashfield, Diane told me about her mother corning their beef to make hash (it took three weeks for corning), and that she often made hash from leftover meat, including roast beef, turkey, chicken, and pork. We also talked about Red Flannel Hash, which includes chopped beets, and different ways to season different kinds of hash.
The Elmer’s hash was tasty and we had a great chat with Nan and Elmer’s breakfast cook Michael Hulburt. Michael and Diane compared notes about different ways to cure the meat and cook the hash. Michael and Nan were intrigued with Diane’s three-week beef corning recipe but weren’t sure it was practical for the amount of hash they serve and the space they have. Lyle Gray was at a nearby table and he chimed in with thoughts about local sources of meat.
We talked about how expectations of what something will taste like impacts our opinion. I grew up in northern California suburbia, far away from trees that make maple syrup. The syrup we had on pancakes was a concoction Mom made with brown sugar, water, and maple flavoring. It tasted great. The first time I tasted real maple syrup, it didn’t taste “right.”
Our family friends grew citrus, so from an early age, I drank fresh-squeezed orange juice. It tasted great. When a friend from the northwest and I visited California orange groves, we picked oranges, juiced them, and drank the fresh juice. My friend didn’t like it — it didn’t taste “right.”
Some people love the hash at Elmer’s, some people think it doesn’t taste “right.” My guess is that a lot depends on what you expect. I wonder whether there would be a difference in how people respond to Elmer’s hash if the menu said “Elmer’s Special Hash” instead of “corned beef hash.”
How much do your expectations and memories of particular foods impact your enjoyment of something you eat now? What’s your favorite way to prepare hash? I’d love to hear your stories and recipes.
This week we’re eating ...
By Diane Sievers, South Deerfield
Chop onions and saute in frying pan with lots of butter or other fat. Throw in equal amounts of chopped cooked meat (it can be any kind of meat, including beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or turkey) and chopped boiled potatoes. Mix it all together, season with salt and pepper. Add a bit of cream or Worcestershire sauce if you’d like. Let it brown on the bottom, then turn to brown other side. Either flatten with spatula into “pancake” shape, or leave as loose chunks. Serve as is or with catsup or hot sauce. Goes well with any green vegetable.