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Paternal Legacy Expressed in a Can of Breakfast Meat

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Everything I know about breakfast I learned from my father. It was he who fed me those early school mornings, at least when he was in town. I took care of myself when he was not because my mother was not exactly a morning person. The fare was simple: Either scrambled eggs liberally dosed with sauteed jalapeños or fried eggs, sunny-side up on toast. But the best was sunday brunch: omelets, pancakes or my all time favorite: corned-beef hash.

This is not as bad as it looks
This is not as bad as it looks

Yes, that's right! I'm talking about breakfast in a can. I still enjoy it to this day. Open up the can and plop it right into the frying pan. Sure, it looks like dog food (may even taste like it, for all I know), but when it's done right — the perfect balance between the crispy outside and warm, soft inside — it starts my day off very well, thank you. I'm not claiming this is better than home-made, which it's not. Just that the ratio of work to joy is quite favorable.

A very tasty breakfast made quickly
A very tasty breakfast made quickly

Doing It Yourself

If you have the time, though, and the circumstances are right, I recommend making your own. It's simple to do:

  1. You need some left over meat.

    Leftover prime rib from Christmas dinner
    Leftover prime rib from Christmas dinner

    I only make hash when I have some leftovers. The meat needs to be cooked before you start, so it doesn't make sense, to me at least, to set out to make this from scratch.

    Any meat will do. For me, it's usually a left over roast beef of some sort, which is ironic since I don't like the canned roast beef hash, but have never made my own corned beef hash. I've used turkey after Thanksgiving and with ham after Easter, both worthwhile.

  2. Chop the meat up fine.

    It's like watching laws being made, not for the squeamish
    It's like watching laws being made, not for the squeamish

    I run it through my meat grinder once with the large die. You could just use a knife. I wouldn't recommend the food processor because it will turn the meat into a paste that isn't very tasty.

  3. Dice up a potato.

    You need the starch in there. Well I do, anyways. It ain't breakfast without it. Don't limit yourself to the potato, though. If you have any other leftovers in the fridge that look like they might work, chop them up and toss them in there, too. You can't go wrong with onion, peppers of any sort, garlic. Just make sure you dice them up small.

  4. Toss all of the into a frying pan at medium heat with some butter or oil.

  5. Add a liquid.

    You might – might – be able to skip this step if your meat is particularly fatty, but even then, I wouldn't recommend it. Last thing you want is a dry, crumbly hash. You don't need much, a quarter cup or so should be enough. I've used my pig shots (2 ounces of pork broth), milk (yes!) or even gravy for my post Thanksgiving hash.

  6. Keep cooking until you get a crust, but not so long that it dries out.

  7. Throw a fried egg or two on top.

It's more work than canned, but certainly worth it
It's more work than canned, but certainly worth it

Is It Worth Ordering when Eating Out?

This is tough to answer for someone else because it depends on your willingness to suspend your disbelief. I know that the hash I order is coming out of a can most times I order it. Usually it works out just fine. The Yorkshire Diner in Manassas does it well. I enjoy it with a short stack of pancakes in addition to the usual sunny-side up eggs.

This isn't always the case, though. I've had hash served without any crispiness, could still see the shape of the can. In other cases, I've been served a uniformly consistent paste. Where they try to make their own? Doesn't matter, it was a disaster either way. And this really pisses me off. This isn't hard to do.

I'll Never Give It Up

Despite the less than pleasant experiences, hash will always be on my menu. The warm fuzzy feelings it conjures, memories of my father, make it a tasty meal, even if it is from a can.