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I love a good fridge challenge. (POTATO HASH)

November 1, 2008

hash_pan

Miss S. and I, in the extremely rare instance that we are home at the same time, like to cook things and pretend to smack each other in the face as a gesture of ‘this is so good, I can’t hold back’. Our favorite theme of the bread we break together is: ‘fridge-challenge’. That is when you create an impromptu meal with the current contents of your fridge because…

a.) they will soon bite the dust (and no one likes to waste food).
b.) you want to show up someone who looks in the fridge and says, ‘there’s nothing to eat’.
c.) it is the time of day when one is soooo hungry that waiting another minute to eat is impossible, so one must make do.

On this fortuitous evening it was a combination of a.) and c.) that inspired our meal.

With our aforementioned CSA box coming in weekly, there is always some interesting seasonal produce hanging around, though this happens to be the time of year when the harvest is like a broken record repeating squash, potatoes, squash, potatoes… I refuse to complain. There are 1001 ways to use squash (more to come, Look out!) and I happen to be quite fond of making potato hash. Not only because of the name:

hash 1 |ha sh |noun a dish of cooked meat cut into small pieces and recooked, 
usually with potatoes.• a finely chopped mixture • a mixture of jumbled incongruous 
things; a mess. verb [ trans. ]1 make (meat or other food) into a hash.
• to chop (meat or vegetables).2 ( hash something out) come to agreement on something 
after lengthy and vigorous discussion,

but because it can be a two-ingredient dish or twenty. And everybody likes it. At least in my experience so far. To make great hash, although easy, requires a few things such as a reliable casserole or skillet, a non-quit spatula and elbow grease. It is a great little number to have down in the mental recipe file. Hash your potatoes with some other exotic root veggies, celery, onions, peppers (let imagination run wild here). Crumble in some cooked meat or drape a slice of cured salmon over… with a carefully poached egg on top, a champion could have his/her breakfast. A perfect party breakfast item or light supper, a hard-earned hash can be made the day before and reheated in the oven. The most memorable hash I can think of (besides the variation we recently concocted with leftover smoked ribs, potatoes, turnips and scallions) is from Kate’s Kitchen in San Franciscoxoxox. Upon eating it, the notion of adding other veggies dawned on me. They sneak parsnips, carrots, celery as well as classic corned beef in there.

The best way to handle a fridge challenge is to pull out your ingredients, see what goes well together and give each one a role. The previous CSA box presented us one last tomato. Summer waved us goodbye as the radiators in our apartment began to hiss and snarl. The tomato got sliced thickly, drizzled with great olive oil (a staple), some white balsamic, a squeeze of a half lemon that was sitting in the fridge, big chunks of freshly ground salt and pepper, and a crumble of feta cheese. First course done! Quick, easy and we were tided until the main event.

hash_plate

Also found in the fridge, a snapshot of autumn; potatoes, an onion, garlic, some turnips and an acorn squash. The squash was halved and roasted*. It was then stuffed with a whole incongruous mess o’ potato hash, which successfully included all the rest of our fridge ingredients with some roasted chicken diced up in there. I put the usual condiments (salt, pepper, hot sauce) out on the table along with a little container of real maple syrup for some reason. I didn’t try drizzling it on until my last few bites of the meal and it was pretty outrageous. Miss S. thought we’d invented a genius dinner with dessert built in. Then she fake-slapped me in the face.

POTATO HASH
1/4 cup canola oil
1 onion, chopped
2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound turnips, scrubbed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup broth or water, plus some extra
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

  • Heat canola oil in a skillet or casserole (Stainless steel or enamel is best. I do not like to use a non-stick here because you will want to scrape the lovely bits of browned potato from the bottom of the pan. You will!)
  • Toss in the onions, potatoes and turnips. Add some salt and pepper. Allow to cook for several minutes until you can see some of the edges browning. Using advised elbow grease and spatula, scrape browned bits from the bottom and overturn the vegetables so new spots can get brown.
  • Continue this process for about 15 minutes. Add stock or water several times throughout, scraping the bottom each time. Adjust the heat so you get brown, not burn.
  • Add garlic, mix well.
  • Cook hash until potatoes are cooked through, adding more stock, scraping and overturning as needed, about 40 minutes total.
  • Season well. They are potatoes after all and need some help to be fabulous.

(This is just a basic recipe, add additional assorted veggies when adding the potatoes, etc.)

  • Stir in cooked pieces of meat toward the end, leaving enough time to heat them through.

If you want to roast a squash like we did, it couldn’t be easier. Cut your favorite type (butternut, buttercup, acorn, sunshine, kabocha) in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, rub with a little oil and roast at 400F until you can easily pierce the flesh through to the center. Cooking will vary depending on the size of the squash….acorn squash is a smallish variety, it takes about 40 minutes.

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