It’s the day after Christmas as I write the column for this week. I was excited to share a classic beef stew recipe that I may have recently perfected, but I woke up this morning still feeling full and not in the mood for anything too heavy. After several days of big meals and rich desserts at family gatherings, I need a break. Chances are you do too.
For better or worse, there are many cold winter weeks ahead of us when stews will come in handy. For now, I think we should take it easy. For me, that means something without all the meat, bread and cheese. Maybe that’s different for you. But in times of overindulgence, it’s always vegetables that I could use more of to help get myself back on track.
I heard about a dish called red flannel hash while looking for ideas for cooking through my small stockpile of beets. It’s considered a traditional New England dish, but it’s the first I’d heard of it. Though it really is just a take on corned beef hash with the addition of beets.
Many people make corned beef hash from the leftovers of a dish I do know well, the boiled dinner. Boiled dinners were on regular rotation at my grandparents’ house growing up in Connecticut, and today I often have it around Easter with my girlfriend’s family here in Vermont. I just never realized it was a traditional New England dish until I was older. The boiled dinner is so basic, it’s surprising to hear that not everyone throws vegetables and a hunk of corned beef in a pot of water and boils the life out of it all. Don’t get me wrong, I like a boiled dinner just fine every once in a while, but it is a blander meal than I typically enjoy.
While red flannel hash is a riff on corned beef hash, my version riffs that riff a couple of more times over. Not only did I add in beets, I replaced the potatoes with rutabaga and the corned beef with crumbled tempeh. I also added in some carrots. You could just use potatoes and beets if that’s what you have. Turnips would also work well. Or use whatever combination you like, keeping the total amount of vegetables to about three and a half cups. To cook them, I just boil until tender, cooking the beets separately.
Considering that everything is cooked ahead and reformed into hash, it doesn’t take long to put the actual hash together. So use leftovers if you have them, or cook everything ahead of time and you can have this meal ready in no time. Tradition says people eat this for breakfast topped with a fried egg. But it works for a light dinner just fine for me.
A few notes on tempeh. Tempeh is a good source of protein that doesn’t weigh you down like meat does. I use it in the meals I cook on a regular basis. It has a savory, nutty flavor with a firm texture. Although it is made out of soy beans, unlike tofu, I think tempeh offers more versatility and flavor. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend giving it a chance. It’s quite affordable and can work well into a number of dishes. The tempeh crumble recipe below can be used wherever you like to use ground beef or turkey.
Red flannel tempeh hash
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 ½ cups chopped cooked beets
1 cup chopped cooked rutabaga
1 cup chopped cooked carrots
8 ounces cooked crumbled tempeh (recipe below)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Melt the butter in a large cast iron pan over medium heat. Cook the onion until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beets, rutabaga, carrots and tempeh to the pan. Season with the salt and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine. Use a spatula to tightly press everything into the bottom of the pan. Let brown and do not stir. When browned, flip the hash over in pieces and brown on the other side. Add a little more butter to the pan, if needed. When both sides are well browned, turn off the heat and stir in the parsley. Taste and add more salt and ground black pepper. Serve warm, topped with an egg, if you’d like to make it a more robust meal.
1 8-ounce block of tempeh
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried ground rosemary
1 teaspoon paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
In a small pot, cover the tempeh with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove and cool. Then chop the tempeh into small pieces.
In a pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tempeh and all but the soy sauce. Brown the tempeh with the spices and use a wooden spoon to break the pieces into crumbles, almost like you would with ground beef. When well browned, about 5 minutes or so, add the soy sauce and stir to combine. Use immediately or store in the fridge for several days, until needed.