Red Flannel Hash Adventures

beets freshIt’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.

IMG_0245Still, 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.

Hash and egg, pepper IMG_0265

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
  1. 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.
  2.  Boil halved potatoes until fork tender about 15 minutes.  Drain the potatoes, allow to cool and cut into large dice.
  3.  In a large skillet, sauté the onion in butter until it is soft; set aside.
  4.  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.

CSA at JBG

Johnson's Backyard GardenWhile visiting Austin’s downtown farmers market last week I connected with Johnson’s Backyard Garden (JBG), one of the local farms aggressively promoting its highly successful CSA program.  Community Supported Agriculture is a win/win situation: the farmer gets a customer who pays in advance for a share of the harvest and the consumer is insured a regular supply of fresh farm-to-table products.

There are probably as many variations on this theme as there are CSA famers.  While some play it safe and encourage customers to stop by their farm for pick-up, competition can be stiff.   Many farms, not easily accessible to busy urban shoppers,  have designed their own set of strategies to attract this growing clientele.

Johnson’s has escalated its program into serious business.  Key to marketing to the community, customers are encouraged to participate in the farm’s daily chores and events.  For a few hours a week folks can get in touch with the land and help out a farmer while receiving their CSA at a reduced price.  Suddenly, the farmer’s family has grown exponentially; they have a built-in cast of characters for work details plus the critical additional hands necessary for harvesting, packaging, and distributing weekly CSA boxes.

If you can’t pick up your CSA, JBG will deliver to your door, for a price.  They also have an elaborate network of drop-off/pick-up locations all over Austin and the outlying hill country.  My pick-up location is only 8 miles away and turns out to be the front porch of someone’s home.  They get the added convenience of home delivery while accommodating their neighbors.

CSA wo 2.24.14

On Mondays, the JBG website displays an attractive layout of the upcoming week’s harvest share.  There are different box sizes and options to further accommodate varying household appetites, needs, and budgets.  The boxes are delivered in coated cartons, designed for re-use.  For shortages or those wanting a swap-out, back-ups are furnished in an auxiliary cooler.

No exaggeration, the contents of the Thursday share box looked exactly like Monday’s photo―same quality and quantity.  Delivery as promised.

beets fresh

Beets du jour:   this recipe will accommodate 2-3 pounds of beets.  Since my CSA share of 1 bunch equated to five medium beets, I added 4 hard cooked eggs to the mix, and pickled it all overnight.

Pickled Beets and Eggs

Ingredients

  •  1 small bunch beets (about 5 medium beets), greens trimmed to 1 inch of stem and washed well
  • 4 hard cooked eggs, cooled and peeled

Pickling Liquid

  • 2 cups apple vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ large white onion, cut into strips or rings
  • 1 tsp. whole allspice
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 8 whole peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • dash salt

Instructions

  1. Cover the trimmed beets with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse well; when cool enough to handle, trim root and stem ends, and peel off outer skin.  Slice the beets and set aside.
  2.  Heat the pickling liquid to a boil, the spices can be placed in a tea holder or cheesecloth bag; simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove the spices if desired.  Note: for faster cooling, the pickling water can be replaced by a heaping cup of crushed ice at this time.
  3.  Place the beets and eggs in a glass jar or other airtight container, and pour over the pickling liquid.  Let cool and store overnight in refrigerator, shake occasionally to relocate the eggs and beets.