Sunday, August 21, 2011

Yo, baby, you want some hash?

Canned hash is a nasty business. It doesn't even remotely resemble anything that was once living, and I imagine that if the Soviets had won, we'd be eating this three times a day. Or maybe it's if the Irish won. Or maybe it's if Walmart wins. Meh. Who cares. The point is that great hash can be prepared when using very nice, fresh ingredients, and today I had the pleasure of starting with the cream of the crop.
Every element of this hash has a little story and is a bit unusual. I've got a smallish-sized Asian eggplant that looks like it's only got a few more days before it'll be spent. Then there's my favorite wacky yellow flying saucer squash. I've made sure to try to pick up one of these each time I see them, because not only do they have a pretty darn playful name and shape, but the flavor is sweet, and this variety of squash seems to keep its texture a bit more firm when cooked. I've also got a little bit of fresh flat leaf parsley and some fresh thyme, one of my favorite earthy herbs... a prelude to the mounds of sage and rosemary characteristic of autumn flavors. And then, I've got about a quarter of a chouriço sausage. Chouriço, as I've mentioned previously, is a staple Portuguese sausage of my childhood, and highly regarded around areas such as Fall River and New Bedford. It's rich, bright red with the flavors of paprika and smokey pork, and as you cook it, the red juice that oozes out and flavors all your other ingredients is just as important as the meat itself... as you will soon see.
Adirondack Red Potatoes
But there are two other ingredients that I am really excited to try out. First, I've got some beautiful, fairly newly dug potatoes. These are extra special because they are Adirondack Red potatoes, picked up from Kimball Fruit Farm's stand at the Dewey Square Farmers Market in Boston, obviously my favorite farm stand. This specific potato is a hybrid variety, recognized for its vibrant red skin, and likewise, pink-colored flesh. Beyond being a cool looking potato, it's delicious and rich in antioxidants. 
Duck Eggs
The other ingredient that has me all a twitter, are these beauties! They are duck eggs, purchased from the Batcheller Hill Farm stand at the same Boston farmers market. I've never used duck eggs before, and though I have had a few run ins with quail and ostrich eggs (both so awesome), I felt the need to ask the lady at the farm stand how best to use these. She kind of surprised me, stating that the duck eggs could be used in the same way as any regular chicken egg. The only difference she could really tell was that these eggs would have a slightly firmer white protein, and a larger yolk. I think a super yolky fried duck egg could make for the perfect hash topper, don't you?
Prepping a hash is about the easiest thing in the world. I diced up the chouriço into little cubes, and likewise sliced up my potatoes into slightly larger cubes. The trick is that you want the potatoes to cook up fairly quickly, so I keep them pretty small, maybe about a quarter of an inch cubes. Next I cut similarly-sized pieces of my eggplant and the flying saucer squash, and minced the fresh herbs. At this point, I tossed by eggplant with salt, and set it between two paper towels, topped with the weight of a frying pan to squeeze out some moisture. Before using the eggplant, which was in about ten minutes, I gave them a rinse and dried them off.
With frying pan on medium heat, I added about a tablespoon of canola oil, and my bits of chouriço. In two minutes, the flavors of the sausage had saturated the rest of the oil, and it was an appropriate time to add the potatoes, and toss, and toss, and toss. By keeping the potatoes moving, I prevented sticking, but it only takes about five to seven minutes until they are cooked through enough to add your other ingredients. After tasting and making sure that they are just about done, I added my herbs, my squash, and my eggplant pieces. About three more minutes of tossing everything around, adding a bit of salt pepper, and just a dash of poultry spice, the hash was done. I set it aside in a bowl, the entire room smelling savory like what they must serve for breakfast in heaven, and it's now time to fry up the duck egg.
In a nonstick frying pan, I gave everything a good round spray, and set the heat on high. I like to fry my eggs in a very hot nonstick pan, because I find that then the egg white will cook quicker, giving me a better chance of flipping the egg without breaking the yolk. I tested the hot pan with a drop of water. It made the appropriate sizzling sound, and I broke the egg into the pan. One minute on one side, and then a flip, and about thirty seconds on the other ensures for a nice runny yolk. Out of the pan and on top of the hash it went. 
This was perhaps the most remarkable, savory, unctuous, and yet very simple meal that I've made myself all summer. The preparation was easy, but the ingredients were all extroardinary, and extroardinary summer ingridents are things that must never ever be taken for granted. From the first moment that the beautiful yolk was broken over the hash, all of this natural sauce was allowed to coat the sweet, sauteed squash, the waxy and fresh earthy potatoes, those delicious, creamy on the inside eggplant. Furthermore, all the ingredients were saturated with the flavors of home, the oils of the chouriço. It's the pleasure of breaking the yolk, tossing everything about, and tasting something decadent, and yet also fresh. What a treat.

The Money Shot
1/4 of a chouriço sausage
3 small Red Adirondack potatoes
1 small Asian eggplant
1/2 flying saucer squash
2 sprigs flat leaf parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt, pepper, dash of poultry spice
1 duck egg

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