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Corned beef hash

The American writer and critic Dorothy Parker once famously defined "eternity" as "two people and a ham," but she might as well have been talking about corned beef.

We did the corned beef thing earlier this month as the jumping-off point for an article about what wine to match with the traditional St. Patrick's Day feast; and sure enough, a week or so later, there sat a big chunk of it, staring up at me from its refrigerator container in silent reproach.

The solution? Make a batch of corned-beef hash! A long-time breakfast favorite that reaches its highest and best use as a base for soft-fried or poached eggs, this is a treat I've often enjoyed at cheap diners but rarely tried at home.

It's fairly simple and not too time-consuming, although it's best if you make the slightly finicky effort to chop the meat, potatoes and onions into neat, tiny dice. And while it's certainly the Breakfast of Champions, corned-beef hash can easily serve as a main course for dinner or a hearty lunch.

I searched several cookbooks and dozens of Websites in search of a "canonical" recipe and concluded that no such thing exists. This is apparently one of those folk dishes with almost infinite variations. I finally threw up my hands and worked without a recipe, putting it all together in a way that felt right. It seemed to work ... the new dish resurrected the leftover chunk of beef before it turned green, and made a good lunch and a couple of follow-up breakfasts.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

Leftover cooked corned beef, about 12 ounces (350g)
1 large baking potato
1 small or 1/2 large yellow onion
1/2 green bell pepper
1 or 2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/2 cup beef broth
Black pepper


1. Cut the corned beef into tiny dice, no more than 1/4-inch. Do the same with the onion and green pepper, and then with the peeled potato, taking care to put the cut potato pieces into water promptly so they won't discolor. Mince the garlic fine.

2. Put the potatoes in a pot with salted water, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook briefly, no more than 5 minutes or so, until they're tender but not mushy.

3. While the potatoes are simmering, heat the butter or oil in a good-size nonstick skillet or sautee pan, and cook the diced onions and green peppers and the garlic over medium heat until they start to brown. Drain and add the potatoes and stir briefly, then stir in the diced corned beef. Add the beef broth, a little at a time - you may not need it all, as you don't want the dish to be soupy - and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring often, until the hash starts developing brown crusty edges. The potatoes will have mashed somewhat but should still show some texture. Taste and add salt, if necessary, and black pepper to taste.

Serve as is, with bread and a salad and hot sauce on the side, or elevate it to diner-style nirvana with a couple of poached or soft fried eggs on top.

WINE MATCH: To be honest, I don't usually serve wine with breakfast or brunch, although a nice sparkling wine, from a dry Prosecco to serious Champagne, certainly wouldn't be amiss with this down-home treat. With traditional corned beef and cabbage, my choice this year was a powerful and hearty Alsatian Pinot Gris (but not a Pinot Gris/Grigio in the light and airy style). Fruity, non-tannic red wines work well too, from Beaujolais or even Pinot Noir to lighter-style Italian reds.

Want to a copy that's easy to use in the kitchen? You'll find a simple, plain-text version of these recipes, suitable for printing, online at

If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about this recipe or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by our Food Lovers' Discussion Group, where I've posted this article as a new topic, "FoodLetter: Corned beef hash"

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Thursday, March 25, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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