Corned beef hash with chitlins March 14, 2011Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Beef, Charcutepalooza, Innards, Wolfe recipe.
Tags: Breakfast, Dinner
It is well known that Nero Wolfe cannot abide women. For Wolfe, the only thing worse than to be in the presence of a woman is to be in the presence of a woman who presumes to give him advice. However, both Nero Wolfe and Fritz acknowledge that corned beef hash is “one of life’s toughest problems” (“Cordially invited to meet death”, part of the Black Orchids collection). It is in this context that Wolfe deigns to take advice from a woman, in order to improve his corned beef hash. The great piece of advice provided to Wolfe was that chitlins (pig intestine) should be added to the hash to add flavour and assist with the texture. Given that the Charcutepalooza theme for this month was to brine something, I decided to make my own corned beef and then use it to test this recipe.
First of all, I constructed a basic brine using salt, pink salt, sugar and a range of spices including peppercorns, mustard seeds, cinnamon, cardamom pods, allspice, chili and bay leaves. I added all this to water and simmered it until all the salt dissolved, then let it cool. When it was quite cool, I added the beef, put a plate on top of it (to ensure the beef was fully submerged in the brine) and put it in my fridge for 5 days.
Once this time was up, I removed the beef from the brine cooked it in my favourite way: boiled, with vegetables cooked in the same water. I added more of the spices, and cooked it for about 2 hours.
As I tweeted at the time, I had a Moment with this corned beef! It was delicious, with a depth of flavour lacking from commercial corn beef I’ve had. It was very difficult, but I made sure there was about half the beef left so I could make corned beef hash the next day.
I am lucky enough to work near a market where every part of almost every animal is available. Certainly, every part of the pig is available – you just have to ask! When I asked for intestines, they didn’t blink – just wanted to know how much I needed. Now the proud owner of some intestines (and a bunch of other things I couldn’t resist buying), I headed home to begin the process of cleaning them.
I began by soaking them, changing the water 3 or 4 times. I then cut them into smaller lengths (as I was going to be chopping them into small pieces anyway) and ran each piece under running water until they ran clear. Next, I placed chili, bay leaves, cloves, celery,onions, red wine vinegar and water into a pot and added the intestines. I brought this mix to a boil and allowed it to simmer. The Nero Wolfe Cookbook said it would take 2 or 3 hours until the chitlins were tender; however, when I checked them after about an hour, they were already tender. I removed them from the pot, chopped them into smaller pieces, and patted them as dry as I could.
Now, I was faced with a dilemma. The recipe called for onion juice, but since I had none on hand (!), I decided to cheat a little by adding some chopped onion pieces to the oil and cooking them for a couple of minutes, hopefully flavouring the oil. I removed the onion pieces and added the chitlins, frying them until they were browned.
I left them to drain on some paper towel while I prepared the hash mix. I ran the corned beef, cooked potatoes, an onion and a capsicum through the smallest mincer blade I had, mixing everything together well. I added the chitlins and put the whole mix into a buttered tin.
My instructions said to cook until it was nicely brown on top – unfortunately, mine started to go black around the edges before it was uniformly brown, and at that point I decided to take it out. I served it with a fried egg, which is probably sacrilegious in the Nero Wolfe household, but I thought it would make a good combination.
Not the most attractive of meals, but it was delicious. The flavour of the chitlins had gone through the hash (in a good way!) and provided a great contrast to the taste of the corned beef. It was neither too greasy nor too dry (two of Wolfe’s issues with inferior hash) and many helpings were consumed.
Now, far be it from me to suggest improvements on Nero Wolfe’s favourite hash recipe, but next time I make this I will be making some changes. The main one would be to not grind everything on the smallest grinder, but instead use a larger size to get a bit more texture in the hash mix. I felt it was a bit too homogenous with some of the corned beef flavour getting lost in the overall mix. I might even leave a few pieces of the corned beef out and chop them roughly by hand to give even more contrast.
But the most major change I’d make is to double the amount of corned beef I make. This way, I can eat more of this delicious meat, and experiment with even more methods of cooking and consuming it!