Wednesday 10 July 2013

Steak and Veggie Hash With Baked Eggs

I married a guy who worked on a ship. 

What that has to do with a recipe for hash and eggs is not immediately apparent but there is, in fact, a straight line connection (or at least as straight a line as any in my life) between the two:

The crew on my husband's ship had a real synergy.  Their work involved search and rescue, and the need to place their very lives in each other's hands created an exceptionally close bond between them.  The "boys" were like a family: A big, often rowdy, frequently drunken, sometimes brawling family, but a family nonetheless.

When we first got together, my husband and I continued to live in the apartment he'd had as a bachelor, and his crew mates continued to view our door as always open. Our apartment was an extension of their shipboard home.

I was a little taken aback at first to realize that my fella's crew mates came and went from our place whenever they felt like it.  The first Sunday morning after I moved in, I got up to find them all sleeping in our living room and spare bedroom.  Every spare inch of carpet, bed, couch, and armchair was covered with sprawling, snoring sailors!

The boys had let themselves in through the spare bedroom window (jokingly known among them as the apartment's back door) and settled in.  They woke to the aroma of fresh brewed coffee and, once awake, asked in chorus "What's for breakfast Mom?"

Those Sunday morning breakfasts became a regular affair at our house and I quickly came to understand that, while they had started because the boys were protective of my guy and wanted to be sure I'd treat him well, they continued because I was approved of and liked...and because I cooked a darn good breakfast!  :^)

A sailor's income doesn't usually extend to lavish entertaining, so I quickly mastered the art of conjuring Sunday morning breakfast from what we had on had.  Hash was a favourite:  I combined potatoes with whatever cooked vegetables we had in the fridge and then, when the hash was cooked, added some eggs.  Sometimes there was meat, and sometimes toast or pancakes, but not always. 

There was never a complaint.  Sixteen rowdy men happily tucked their knees under our table and ate until all the food was gone.

Time passed, the boys grew older, transferred to different ships, married, or moved away, but they all still stay in touch.  When they come to visit us, I still make this dish.  

When the boys aren't around, hash is a popular supper choice at our house; transforming a small bits of leftover this and that into a generous quantity of tasty, filling food.

This recipe for steak and veggie hash with baked eggs serves four.  To make it, you'll need:

  • 3 or 4 large baked potatoes, cooked and cooled
  • 8 ounces of cooked steak
  • 2 Tablespoons bacon fat (If you don't have bacon fat, substitute oil or butter, to your own preference)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 sweet bell pepper (I used yellow), finely diced
  • 1-1/2 cups finely chopped cooked cabbage
  • 1 cup cooked carrots, cut in a small dice
  • 1-1/2 cups black beans or pinto beans
  • smoked paprika to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs

You'll need a large skillet that has a lid to fit and can go in the oven.  

Cut the potatoes and steak into similarly-sized cubes.  I like my finished hash to have some texture so I use about a half inch dice.  

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Melt the bacon fat in the pan, swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan, then add in the onion and bell pepper.  Cook them, stirring constantly, until the onion is translucent and the texture tender crisp.

Add in the potato, steak, cooked cabbage, cooked carrots, and beans. Allow them to sit in the pan until a little crust forms on the bottom, then give them a gentle stir.

Season the ingredients to taste with paprika, salt, and pepper.  Add the seasoning, then give the hash a stir and a taste.  Repeat until you've arrived at a level of seasoning that pleases you.

Continue allowing a crust to form, then giving the hash a stir until there are some nice crispy brown bits distributed throughout.

Use the back of a large spoon or ladle to make "nests" in the hash.  Crack an egg into each nest.

Put a lid on the pan (this will help the eggs to cook more quickly and evenly) and put the pan on the center rack of your preheated oven.

Cooking time for the eggs will depend on how you like your yolks but I'd start checking them at about 10 minutes.

Cook the eggs until they're almost - but not quite - done.  They'll continue to cook in the residual heat held in the hash.  Plate your portions and serve your meal as quickly as possible after it comes out of the oven. 

Cook's notes:

This dish is pretty nearly infinitely variable.  You can make it with whatever leftover meat or poultry you have on hand, or with no meat at all.  I strongly recommend that you always include onion, potato, cabbage, and beans, but you can add in whatever other vegetables you have on hand too.

If you're cooking this for a big crowd, make a large quantity of hash in advance and divide it between 9 x 13 cake pans.  Make 4 to 6 egg "nests" per pan.  When you're almost ready to serve the meal, add in the eggs, cover the pans with foil, and bake them all at once, rotating their position in the oven about halfway through the cooking time.