By Jimmy Schmidt
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Today's lesson: Corned beef is a time-honored St. Patrick's Day tradition, but this year we break the mold by taking all the flavors of corned beef and cabbage and turning them into a dashing hash.
What is corning or pickling meat? The term "corned" comes from Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain, where the beef was cured in rock salt crushed to the size of wheat kernels, called corns. Corning or pickling preserves meat by adding salt, which inhibits growth of microbes by drawing out moisture. Corning continued after refrigeration as a seasoning process.
Why does corned beef taste so good? The pickling spice blend accentuates the flavor of the beef.
What is corned beef hash? Traditional corned beef hash was made from scraps of boiled corned beef mixed with onion and potato that was sauteed into a pancake. Some lesser cuts are commercially cured into corned beef for the specific purpose of making hash. This hash is inferior in taste and texture to what we are going to make.
Start with a corned beef brisket: Start by selecting a small corned beef, about 2 pounds. In a medium pot, cover the brisket with cold water, add an onion and a few spices and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 2 hours. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the broth. It can be cooked a day ahead and refrigerated in its liquid. Trim the excess fat on the brisket and cut into 3/8-to ½-inch dice.
The shortcut: Speed up the process by purchasing cooked corned beef. Have the deli slice it to thickness so it is ready to dice. You will need about 1 ½ pounds.
To serve: Corned beef hash traditionally is served with a poached egg on top. Another version calls for a mustard sauce that complements the flavor of the hash. Some purists insist on nothing at all. You decide!
© 2002, Detroit Free Press.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.