On vacation in Mahone Bay, my sisters, brothers-in-law and I dropped in to “Jerry’s Diner” for breakfast.  A row of stools at the counter faced the kitchen action, and the strip of booths were straight out of the 50’s.  The sisters who ran the flat top had been cooking together on this spot for 30 years, switching off the cooking and waiting duties.  The sign on the hood over the range read “Just Like Mom used to make”.  Blueberry pancakes, as big as the plate and half an inch thick, started with mix, but I think the berries were fresh.  There was lots of bacon sizzling away, but between batches that cooktop was as clean as a whistle.  Poached eggs came out of a steamer, but the “over easy” version was perfectly prepared.  You could order your corned beef hash with or without onions.  As a testament to the durability of diner tradition, the place was filled with locals like my sister Robin and her husband David, who treated us to this blast from the past, where all customers were referred to as “dear”.  I was pretty sure the Hollandaise was packaged, so I jumped on that corned beef hash, which I ordered “with onions”, and enjoyed in its crispy perfection.

Corned Beef Hash can be a complicated, time-sensitive, long-ingredient-list treat (just see Alton Brown’s entry on the topic – he makes his own corned beef!), or it can be a quick and easy hangover-buster, customized to your own taste.  It’s also perfect for lining your stomach before meeting the crowd for an evening of bar hopping or clubbing.  I love a multi-tasker!

Although the word “hash” comes from the French word for “chop”, corned-beef-and-potatoes hash was likely invented as a British war-time recipe to make use of what was available – canned corned beef and potatoes.  Over time, it has become a North American breakfast dish, usually topped with an egg.  Many of the recipes I researched include chopped bell pepper (not an option at Jerry’s), which I think was imported from the recipe for Potatoes O’Brien (who was O’Brien anyway?)  You can substitute ham for the corned beef, and add anything you want to this basic recipe (I’ll bet Carter will add corn) to suit your taste and your pantry.  It can be a great way to use up those leftover roasted vegetables from last Sunday’s dinner.

Corned Beef Hash


  •  1 potato, the size you want to eat, waxy preferred (thin skin, keeps its shape when cooked, a bit sticky too) (You can use frozen recipe-ready potatoes, particularly the shredded kind, to good effect.  On the other hand, real potatoes are cheap, don’t contain preservatives, and you can buy them singly so the rest of the bag doesn’t take on a life of its own before you can use it up.)
  • 4 oz corned beef, diced quite small (two thick deli-slices, or used canned, or use leftover if you have it) (You can use smoked turkey or chicken, or salami, or ham – whatever you choose just needs to be salty, and able to brown.  Bacon or pancetta is too rich.)
  • Some kind of onion, about 2 Tbsp finely chopped (regular, shallot, scallion, leek, chives – you choose)
  • A little oil and/or butter for frying (about 2 Tbsp)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Grainy Mustard (as much as you like, or none)

Optional:  Egg: poached, sunny-side-up, over easy, your choice


Peel your potato if you want to – skin-on is fine, and somewhat healthy.  If the skin has a greenish cast, however, that green part may disagree with your digestion, so peel it, please.  Chop into quite small, uniform pieces.

Put the potato in a microwave-safe bowl, covered with a plate or a piece of plastic wrap with a vent-hole.  Microwave on full power for about 2 minutes, or until very hot and a bit sticky, but not fully cooked.  Microwave steaming causes the surface starches of the potato cubes to soften, which will make them crispier in the frying pan.

Meanwhile, heat up a 10-inch skillet over medium heat, adding some oil and/or butter.  Butter is great for flavor, and the oil will prevent it from burning too quickly.  All butter will burn.  All oil is ok, but not as tasty.

Add your onion and let it cook away for about a minute (unless you are using green onions or chives – add them at the end of cooking so they retain their color and flavor).  You want the onion to soften, but not brown.

Add the hot potatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Stir them around until they are lightly coated with oil.

Cover the skillet with a lid (or foil, or a heat-proof plate).  Reduce the heat to low.  If you were wanting to add a little diced bell pepper, a little chopped cabbage (or kale), a handful of spinach, or anything at all, this is the time to do so.  Let the potatoes cook, covered, for about 2 minutes, or until they are soft, and may be lightly browned (depends on how “low” your low setting is, and whether you are cooking on a gas or an electric stove).

Take off the cover.  Add the corned beef.  Crank the heat back up to medium or medium high.  Stir and cook until the potatoes and meat are lightly browned and a little crispy.

Many recipes will have you press the potatoes into a pancake during this part of the process, browning further and doing a complicated little trick of sliding the mass onto a plate and flipping it back into the pan.  Whatever.  It makes for a distinctive presentation, but frankly, I don’t think it’s worth the bother.

When everything is nice and brown and crispy, add some mustard (I like grainy – you use what you have, or none at all).  The important thing is to taste and adjust your seasoning, particularly the salt and pepper.  More salt may not be needed (although potatoes really like salt), and the pepper requirement is entirely up to you.

Choices, choices, choices.  If your skillet is small, you could push the hash to the edges  and add an egg or two to the centre of the pan, cooking until you achieve the perfect sunny-side-up – eat it right out of the skillet if you do.  If your skillet is bigger, make a mound of hash in the middle, make a hollow in the mound, and break your egg(s) into the hole.  Either way — a minute with the lid on will steam the top of that egg, if you don’t like it snotty … er … fluid.

Or you could tip the hash into a bowl or dish of some kind, or a metal ring thingy that you can get from the cooking stuff store, press it down a bit, and leave it there while you fry or poach an egg.  Slide the pressed hash out onto your serving plate and top it with the egg.  A runny yolk really enhances the dish for me, but you get to choose for yourself.

Either way, it’s a quick, satisfying nosh, whether you’re treating yourself to brunch at home, or grabbing a bite before a night on the town.

If you’re dying to top the whole thing off with Hollandaise, to make the perfect “Bennie/Hash” fusion, check out the Hollandaise article for pointers.  Don’t feel guilty!  Have fruit and yogurt for breakfast another time.