Lamb sneaks its way into family's favorite hash
Monday, April 08, 2013 10:48 AM
Hash is a combination of precooked meat, potatoes and onions ground up together, then fried. When my mom made hash she'd get out the heavy black iron frying pan and cook the hash mixture on hot bacon grease. I use a non-stick skillet and drizzle my pan with olive oil.
Hash again, lamb this time!
But I still use an old-fashioned metal meat grinder to mince and grind the ingredients together. When we were kids it was a meal to use up the leftover roast - a meal when kids could help with the grinding task. Ketchup was the condiment of choice. Plenty of ketchup!
My kids also enjoyed eating hash, but as time passed, I gave up the bacon grease. Oh, there was a time that I, like my mother, kept a container of leftover bacon grease to use for frying near my stove. Now cooking bacon is a special occasion and not a typical happening. And I don't save the leftover grease.
Recently, my youngest son requested hash, as his choice for a meal after making weight for a mixed martial arts fight he was competing in. This choice gives credence to a thought that perhaps this was one of my kids' favorite meals. Many years ago when I started writing this column, I wrote about cooking hash. This was back when I had hungry teenage men living at my house.
So when the request came, a day before weigh-ins, I dug a roast out of the freezer and cooked it in my oven the evening before. I have pork and lamb in my freezer and when I grabbed the roast from the pork storage basket, I thought that's what it was.
It was a "shoulder" roast and had a fair amount of fat on one side. I rubbed the surface with rosemary salt and set it in a pan in the oven at 325 degrees, fat side up and still frozen. After awhile, I started to suspect it was really lamb and not pork.
Honestly, I have always made hash with either pork or beef, sometimes a combination of both. I have never used lamb, but I didn't have time to find a different roast and start cooking again. The only issue was going to be my husband, who seems to have an aversion to eating lamb.
He will routinely say, "Is this lamb?" when digging into a mixture of whatever I have set on the stove. (I don't serve sit-down meals except for Christmas. Most of the time it's "here's the plates, help yourself.") We've had some lamb chops and roasts in the freezer a few years, that never seem to get consumed. I like lamb and when we lived on the farm, we raised sheep. So I even have a lamb cookbook in my collection. My son, Logan, raised some lambs and had a couple of them butchered.
I served them as dainty lamb chops and, for whatever reason, my spouse wasn't enamored with the taste. And I think I put some ground lamb in some other dish, maybe chili, and that's probably where he started suspecting any meat that wasn't quite defined might be lamb. Thus, his question continues, "Is this lamb?" And I answer, "No, no, and no" again.
I like people to eat my food!
Weigh-in night was also Good Friday and the egg coloring night at my house with the grandchildren. It was an interesting experience because most of the eggs, also raised by Logan, were brownish or greenish, creating different hues in the dyes.
My daughter-in-law especially appreciates that eggs get colored at my house. I especially appreciated that she was having Easter at her house. Whatever she wanted me to bring, I was happy to as a few hours cooking is nothing compared to cleaning an entire house.
We rolled out sugar cookies that evening too. Sunday morning I made my low calorie strawberry pies (a recipe shared a year ago), cut up a selection of veggies and mixed up some dip.
Before the egg dyers arrived, I cut up the well-cooked lamb roast into chunks, cut a few Yukon potatoes and an onion in chunks and sliced up half a red pepper. I decided perhaps since it was lamb, I might add another offsetting flavor.
Here I will add that the next day when I was doing my workout at the 24-hour fitness center in town, I watched a cooking show where latkes were created. Normally, these are made from shredded potatoes and onion, but this time the cook used beets, carrots and parsnips. This got me to thinking that hash could be tricked out with shreds of carrots, beets or other vegetables.
I did not peel my potatoes. Why? My mother would approve of preserving the vitamins from the peels and using them in the hash. It's just that when she was growing up, potatoes came from the garden and may still have had dirt clinging to them when they were being prepared. Water did not come gushing from the tap either.
My Yukons were already very clean and just needed a rinsing before I cut them up.
I have my grandmother's meat grinder, but similar ones can still be purchased today. Like the process used by the woman making the latke cakes on the TV screen, I am sure a food processor could also do the task of grinding up the ingredients.
Before the kids arrived for their egg event, I had newspapers laid out on the peninsula, I'd mixed up dyes and boiled four dozen eggs. The only thing I had neglected to find was color crayons for creating designs. There is a trick to perfectly boiling the eggs - but I will keep that for another column when we will make spring egg salad for sandwiches.
Sometimes I buy the packaged Easter dye tablets, but this year I hadn't. I scoured my cupboard for food coloring. I found the old colored plastic mugs that we've used for coloring cups since my oldest children colored eggs. There is a real sense of tradition to know that your dad used the same cups when he colored eggs.
Half a dozen drops or more of food coloring per cup, a tablespoon of white vinegar and fill the cup half full of boiling water. I also laid out a bunch of soup spoons. Then, since I was ready for the grandkids, I got ready to cook.
After grinding the ingredients together, I heated my non-stick pan with a thin coating of olive oil. Then I dumped in half the prepared hash ingredients. It seemed easier to brown and cook half of the hash, remove this from the pan, then brown the other half.
After Logan weighed in at 190 (his normal weight is over 200) he came for his feast. My husband had to work at church for Good Friday services, so he arrived later. I quietly explained that the hash was really made with lamb. Noah wanted some and he's a pretty particular eater - he munched away. First, he told me he didn't want the red spots (peppers), but after I admitted taking them out would not be simple, he ate the spots too.
In the midst of this chaos, my husband walked through the door. He picked up a plate and looking at the hash said, "Is this lamb?"
Honestly, I have not served him lamb for a long time, so this caught me off guard. But I recovered and said, "It's from a roast." True statement. Until he reads this column, he will not know he ate lamb. (Sorry, Dale - please forgive me. I had to follow through and the options were limited. Besides, it tasted good!)
For the fans, Logan did win his fight that Saturday night as he has his three prior fights. He is getting closer to 30, when he once said he would quit fighting. I will forever be his fan, but watching is not easy for me and when his MMA career is over - he's a teacher, a farmer and a gardener, all things any mother can like.
Kylie made use of the leftover dye by dipping coffee filters and making tie-dyed butterflies. They came in handy on Sunday when I was decorating Easter bags for my kids and others, who aren't really kids anymore (but who still like chocolate).
1 to 2 pounds precooked meat: pork, beef or lamb
3 to 5 medium sized potatoes
Optional: Red or green peppers, carrots, beets or parsnips
Salt and pepper
Cut the meat into pieces, remove any bones. Scrub potatoes and peel them, if preferred, then cut into chunks. Cut the onion in halves, peel, then cut into wedges. If desired, add one or more additional root vegetables or peppers. Slice peppers into strips; peel and cut vegetables into chunks.
Assemble a work area with a meat grinder clamped into place, a container for the ingredients after they are ground and the prepared meat and vegetables. Start grinding using a coarse grind setting, put one of each ingredient in the grinder funnel, then start cranking and grinding. Kids like to turn the handle, but care needs to be given with one's fingers as the ingredients are pushed into the grinder (the adult's job). Keep adding and grinding until all the ingredients have been combined.
Lightly coat a non-stick skillet with olive oil and heat. Pour in half the ground mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. After a minute, take a turner and start lifting and turning, while scraping the pan's bottom, and turning the browned mixture so it's on the top. Keep cooking and turning until cooked through. If needed, add more olive oil. Remove cooked portion to a plate. Add more olive oil to the skillet, then pour in the last portion of ground ingredients. Follow the same cooking process. Once cooked, add the precooked portion, mix together and reheat.
Serve with plenty of ketchup!