It’s about all those beets gathering in the refrigerator from our CSA allotment; they keep stacking up since I can’t seem to drum up much enthusiasm for them here. When the subject of beets comes up, the attitude seems to be one of general avoidance—with glazed eyes.
I’ve broached the idea of Red Flannel Hash as a brunch or dinner possibility—promoting the colorful name that is linked with our New England forefathers. I’ve shared two of the most famous tales; one is about the woman who got so peeved at her husband for his errant behavior that she fed him his favorite red flannels diced up in the evening’s hash. He enjoyed it so much that when they were on better terms, his wife good-naturedly made it for him again, with red beets instead.
The other yarn is a bit more depressing and not my idea of a true culinary distraction. During the Revolutionary War supplies ran so low for Ethan Allen and his men that they were forced to extend their meager potato hash by throwing in some extremely ripe red flannel underwear. Their heroic meal has lived on to attain true folk status.
Still, neither story it was enough to muster much interest, so I cooked up my own version of Red Flannel Hash anyway. Yes, I went crazy and roasted up all of the beets. What I discovered is that the sugar in beets caramelizes quickly— a nice bonus for crisping up the potatoes. In fact, if the heat is too high, the hash can turn and burn in the blink of an eye.
The best way to enjoy Red Flannel Hash is to include any leftover corned beef that just might be on hand. However, I rarely have that opportunity. Instead, I browned off a delicious house-made pork link sausage from Dyer’s Dairy in Georgetown and rounded out the plate with some freshly made sauerkraut. It was a lovely contrast in sweet-sour and salty elements.
Since I have greatly scaled back on meat consumption, I’m more than happy with the hash prepared straight-up with a simple poached egg on top. I even slather on a good dose of hot sauce.
Red Flannel Hash
- 2 beets (I used 5 medium!), washed and trimmed with about 1” of stem
- 4 medium red potatoes
- 1 tbsp butter or bacon fat
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 tsp fresh marjoram, chopped
- ½ tsp grated nutmeg
- 2 tbsp milk, approximately
- salt and white pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the beets in foil and roast for about 45 minutes or until fork tender. Cool the beets, peel them, and cut into large dice.
- Boil halved potatoes until fork tender about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, allow to cool and cut into large dice.
- In a large skillet, sauté the onion in butter until it is soft; set aside.
- Meanwhile, in the potato pan, combine the potatoes, beets, marjoram, nutmeg, salt and pepper and milk to bind. Add the onion to mixture, stirring to combine and return to the skillet; it may be necessary to add a bit more butter. Heat the hash well, gently pressing, until the hash is crispy. Serve topped with poached eggs. Drizzle with cider vinegar if desired. Serves 4
How to Poach an Egg
- 5 cups of water (approximate)
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp vinegar
Bring a 2-quart pot with 3” of water to a boil and add the vinegar. Lower the heat to a simmer and break an egg into a cup and slip it into the water, repeat with the other eggs. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until the white are firm, the yolks are barely set and have turned color. Remove them with a slotted spoon onto toweling and neatly trim the eggs if ragged.