Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Two-potato hash with ham: Fall comfort food


I try to plan meals. I really do. But I end up improvising dinner far more often than I'd like to admit. And some nights, I have a plan to try something new and perhaps a little healthier, but find myself craving something comforting. Especially on a cold night like tonight.

Hash is the perfect food for cold nights. It's the food equivalent of your oldest, most comfortable sweats; a soft blanket; and a good book. And I've almost always got something I can use to improvise a decent hash.

The key to a good hash is balance. It should have a bit of this and a bit of that. A little bitter or mild to play against something sweet. Some salt from bacon or ham. The vegetables should be cut pretty small, but not so small that they lose their individual characteristics altogether. And of course, a good hash is incomplete without a fried egg or two with runny yolks to break and bring all those nicely roasted vegetables together into the perfect bite. I've just had a bowl and am still craving more, but I have to leave some for my sweetheart (oh the agony!).



This particular version of hash includes sweet and regular potatoes and ham. However, hash can have lots of different things, and it's a great way to clean out any root vegetables that are slightly past their prime (at the end of the post, I have some suggestions for variations).

I like to start the hash off on the stove top while I dice the vegetables and then finish it in the oven, and my beloved cast iron skillet lets me do that. Make sure that whatever pan you use is safe to use in the oven.

Ingredients


  • 2 Tbsps vegetable oil (whatever your preference, lately I've taken to using avocado oil)
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 2-3 medium potatoes (my preference is yellow, but any potato on hand will work fine), cut into 1/2 inch dice (peeled or not, your call)
  • 1-2 small, medium sweet potato, cut into 1/2 inch dice (peeled, generally, sweet potato skins are very thick)
  • 1/2 lb ham steak, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • smoked paprika
  • thyme
  • salt and pepper 

Instructions

The nice thing about making hash is that you can cut vegetables as you go, and that's usually what I do. (In other words, you don't need to dice everything before you get started.)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (F).
  2. Heat the oil in the skillet over medium low heat. 
  3. Chop the onions and add them to the pan. Stir a few times and let them cook slowly until they are slightly shiny, about 5-10 minutes. 
  4. Meanwhile, cube the ham and add it to the skillet. 
  5. Next, cube the potatoes and sweet potatoes and add them to the skillet. Start with the potatoes because they need just a little longer to cook. 
  6. Let everything get a little brown around the edges, about 5 minutes. Then season with smoked paprika (about 1/2 tsp or to taste), a generous sprinkling of thyme, and some pepper.
  7. Slide the pan in the oven and let the vegetables roast for 30-40 minutes. Stir at least once about halfway through the cook time. 
  8. When the vegetables are cooked through and a little brown and crispy around the edges, the hash is ready. Season with salt and more pepper and serve with a sunny-side up egg (or two).

Variations

I almost always include a few potatoes, but feel free to switch up the rest of the vegetables (or add more). The quantities are whatever fits somewhat comfortably in the pan. I like having a distinctly sweet vegetable matched with a more bitter one, here are some examples:

  • sweet potatoes
  • golden beets (red ones will work, but they will make a red mess of your hash)
  • brussels sprouts
  • kale, chopped (add at the last minute before sliding into the oven)
  • turnips
  • carrots
  • parsnips.
You can also mix up the protein. I love bacon in hash and let the fat melt into the onions before I add any vegetables. Other options are to add some leftover turkey (Thanksgiving is coming up soon) or chicken.

The quantities don't matter, and the hash isn't always perfect, but it's almost always deeply satisfying. I love the improvisational character of it, the add a bit of this, and some of that, and see how it turns out.   

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