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When I was growing up, we ate from the land. It was a real treat to have steak or even a ham, which was generally reserved for Easter. My Mom supplemented goods from the grocery store which in almost every case, was as basic as it came - milk, cheese ends, meat ends, butter, eggs, bread, and peanut butter. A bag of chips or a box of cake mix would have been a splurge to say the least, but looking back, we were ultimately better off with real food anyway. Hard to tell a little kid that though when they were baking brownies and eating pizza at the neighbors house.
In an effort to 'keep it real,' and in addition, always keeping costs for myself down as much as possible, I have maintained into my adult life, the "outside edges of the grocery store" habit, only buying real, and as little processed as possible. Recently, I went through my Grandmother's recipe box, now in the guarded hands of my cousin, Holly. It was dreamlike, flipping through dog-eared and stained edges of paper all penned in her hand, notes in the margins "serve with strong coffee," or "dad's favorite." I came upon favorites which I recalled fondly such as Brunch Casserole and Johnny Marzetti. And then, something I hadn't recalled ever tasting at her dinner table; a recipe without a formal title, just the words scribbled shrewdly 'HASH.'
I read through the ingredients which were few. This was a 'rough recipe.' In fact, upon Googling the word hash, this is pretty darn exactly what it said it was:
- a dish of cooked meat cut into small pieces and cooked again, usually with potatoes.
- a mixture of jumbled incongruous things; a mess. synonyms: mixture, assortment, variety, array, mix, miscellany, selection, medley, mishmash, ragbag, gallimaufry, potpourri, hodgepodge "a whole hash of excuses"
I guess I gave quite a bit of thought to how hard life must have been during the Depression, and how many of these rough recipes my Grandmother had in her head. Potatoes, a seemingly key ingredient in most hash recipes I've since read through, were easy and abundant and kept over in winter. My guess was that largely, the dish changed and conformed to whatever was leftover and certainly based also on what was available. I snapped a pic of the recipe with my iPhone with every intention of assembling this Depression era masterpiece...and I did.
The finished product that was hash went together quickly enough using the grizzly end of a leftover ribeye and about a cup of previously roasted halved creamer potatoes. I added coarsely chopped carrots which I caramelized in the pan, and half of an onion. The outcome; lackluster. But I didn't stop. Why ever would I, a busy working gal, abandon the ease and speed of a recipe going together just because I hadn't nailed the correct ingredients? Why white potatoes? Why not sweet potatoes, given the carrots added the same sweetness a sweet potato would and would also provide more substance to the dish. Onions? Nah. Shallots! And from here, I built and the following, which....I have made in under an hour on a weeknight, many, many times. Enjoy!
Ingredients for Maple Bacon and Sweet Potato Hash With Brussels Sprouts and Poached Egg
3-4 slices maple bacon, cooked fully but still flexible and cut into 1/2 rough chop
2 Tablespoons butter
1 sweet potato, cut to 1/2 rough chop
5 shallots, peeled and sliced
Handful of shaved Brussels sprouts
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-2 Tablespoons white vinegar
Arrange bacon in single layer on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven until cooked fully but still flexible at 375 degrees, about 7 minutes each side. Reserve 2 Tablespoons of the bacon grease.
Add 1 Tablespoon of butter and reserved bacon grease to a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Saute sweet potatoes for 5 - 8 minutes stirring occasionally but allowing a nice golden brown on the potatoes.
Add shallots and saute 8-10 minutes more stirring occasionally.
Add remaining Tablespoon of butter to mixture and toss in the handful of shaved Brussels sprouts and the fresh thyme. This handful is to your taste. Keep in mind that they cook down rapidly. Remove from the heat when the sprouts are bright green, but not mushy.
Bring a pot with approximately 3-4 inches of water and the vinegar to a boil. Remove from heat once boiling and drop in your eggs one at a time to begin poaching. At this stage you can return the pot to the heat but lower to a simmer. Poach to desired doneness and drain.
Arrange a heaping serving size of the hash in a bowl and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Top with your egg, a drizzle of good olive oil, and a squeeze of Balsamic glaze.