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Thursday, January 5, 2012

James Beard’s Roast Beef Hash


I just wish this looked as good as it tastes


Joe Beef's Veal Pojarski
This week, the New York Times’ Dining Section featured a front-page article entitled “Lucky to Be a Leftover”.   In it were some remarkable ideas from people all over who made meatballs from holiday hams (no recipe on that one and boy, did I want it!), to Veal Pojarski, made from diced roasted veal, pork or beef and a specialty of those two Montreal Chefs-of-the-Moment, Joe Beef’s own Dave McMillan and Frederic Morin.  The Montrealers go all the way to sticking a roasted bone in the resultant meatball.  The thing looks phenomenally good.  But to me, the best thing to do with the gorgeous centerpiece from our Christmas Day table, our standing Rib Roast of Beef, is to make Roast Beef Hash.

Bobby Van's in beautiful downtown Bridgehampton
        Now I love hash.  Especially when there’s plenty of meat and the roast used hasn’t been trimmed to death.  There’s a really good hash at Bobby Van’s Restaurant in Bridgehampton (2393 Main Street, Tel:  (631) 537-0590 ).  It’s full of flavor and crispy hash browns. Occasionally I note a distinctly lower beef content. I always put this down to how much Prime Rib the place has left over from the night before.    When I make our own Roast Beef Hash, I can go slightly crazy with the beef.  The original recipe for today’s post called for just 2 cups of Cold roast beef and an identical volume of Yukon Gold Potatoes.  I kept the potatoes at 2 cups and upped the beef to about 4.  And this is no diet dish.  Not with a half cup of cream added into it.  I am quite sure you could substitute an equal amount of beef stock in its place but it wouldn’t be something James Beard would advise.
James Beard 1903-1985
         James Beard was one of the seminal cooks in truly changing the way Americans ate.  He introduced the joys of French cooking to a generation raised on meat and potatoes.  He was a giant of a man, well over 6 feet tall and of ample girth.  He was also an amazingly prolific writer managing to compose some 20 books and countless magazine articles.  This output is particularly astonishing since Beard didn’t get his culinary calling until rather late in life.  Born in 1903, he moved to New York from his native Portland Oregon in 1937.  For years he pursued an acting career without much luck.  He and a friend named Bill Rhodes started a catering company called Hors d’Oeuvres, Inc. which capitalized on the Cocktail Party craze of that moment. He wrote his first book on Hors d’Oeuvres in 1940.  Wartime rationing did his business in. But he was well on his way to becoming a culinary force to reckon with and in 1946, he appeared on a new television show called  “I Love to Eat”.  And there was probably no more apt a show title for anything in which James Beard would appear. 
          The man was the consummate eater and teacher. Travelling the country, he introduced it to good food made with fresh, wholesome American ingredients.  He was one of the first chefs to become ‘a brand’ and became “the name, face and belly of American gastronomy” according the writer David Kamp in his wonderful book “The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold-pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution. New York: Broadway Books, 2006.  James Beard had a career that only ended with his death at age 81 in 1985.  Fortunately, he lives on in his eponymous foundation: The James Beard Foundation was set up in his honor and continues to operate out of his former town house in Greenwich Village.  The place is open for private parties and we’ve been fortunate to be invited to several.  The kitchen remains pretty much the way he left it. And every May, the coveted James Beard Foundation Awards are given out to an amazingly diverse group of food industry professionals ranging from chefs to restaurant designers.
James Beard, front and center
on David Kamp's
great book 
         But back to the hash.  Beard was a true hash aficionado.  He loved the stuff and made some startling variations.  Not content with just corned beef hash or chicken hash, his recipes included one for clam hash.  But for today, we’ll stick with this recipe which first appeared in James Beard's American Cookery (Little, Brown, 1972). It’s a wonderful savory hash that, with the addition of a poached egg would make a wonderful breakfast.  Ours however, we ate at dinner.
Here is the recipe:




Recipe for Roast Beef Hash adapted from James Beard

1/4 cup beef drippings or canola oil

2 cups boiled and cooled yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2-4 cups cold roast beef, cut into generous 1/2" cubes

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped

1/8 tsp. cayenne

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tbsp. chopped parsley

1. In a 12" skillet, heat beef drippings or oil over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 8–10 minutes. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. 



Add beef, garlic, thyme, cayenne, and nutmeg; cook, stirring occasionally, until beef browns, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.






2. Add heavy cream, stir to combine, and press hash down into the skillet with a metal spatula.  Turn hash in parts every 2 minutes, loosening any browned bits, until the cream has reduced and hash forms a crust, about 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve hot with fried or poached eggs, if you like.
Serves 4.