Andrea Hunter Halgrimson column: Corned beef can accentuate any meal

Cooked corned beef is like any hunk of leftover meat or poultry. If you play your cards right, what you can do with the remains is every bit as good as the original meal.

Cooked corned beef is like any hunk of leftover meat or poultry. If you play your cards right, what you can do with the remains is every bit as good as the original meal.

Corned beef is usually a brisket that is cured in seasoned brine. The term comes from the English use of the word "corn," meaning any small particle such as a grain of salt.

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, the term "corned beef" dates to 1621. The method was used to preserve meat.

Early on, my grandmother and mother made their own corned beef to use for a boiled dinner. The meat was then cooked in water with the addition of pickling spice. When the beef was done, it was removed and kept warm. Cabbage, carrots and potatoes were cooked in the broth and we always ate it with a side of horseradish.

The next morning Mom made corned beef hash. She diced the meat and fried it with chopped onion and cooked potatoes. Then she made little wells in the hash and broke an egg into each well until the whites set but the yolks were still runny. It was one of my father's favorite breakfasts, right up there with fried polenta and sausage.


I still make boiled dinner and hash the same way although I buy my corned beef at the market.

Sometimes stout, a heavy, strong, dark beer, is used as the liquid for the boiled dinner. It gives the meat a lovely, rich flavor.

Other vegetables such as parsnips and turnips can be added to both the boiled dinner and hash. I try to cook enough potatoes and carrots in the original dinner to have leftovers for the hash. I also like to add some diced red bell pepper to the mixture.

A version of corned beef hash made with diced beets is known as Red Flannel Hash because of the color beets contribute to the finished dish. It is often served with sour cream combined with fresh dill.

A fast-food version can be made with frozen hash browns and a chunk of corned beef from the deli or canned corned beef. The distinctly designed tapered rectangular tins have a key that lets the user remove one end of the can. This allows the meat to be extracted in one piece making it easier to slice.

The word hash comes from the Old French hacher, meaning to chop. In the 19th century, the word hash gave its name to the forerunners of today's diners when they became known as "hash houses."

But it was Irish immigrants who made corned beef the traditional St. Patrick's Day meal in this country. In Ireland, the meal of choice for the celebration is Colcannon, a dish of boiled new potatoes mashed with boiled cabbage, leeks or onions, butter and milk and, when available, wild garlic. It is a heavenly combination.

No matter what your ethnic background, corned beef provides dinner, breakfast, supper and perhaps a lunch of that old Irish favorite -- corned beef on rye -- they are all meals to anticipate with pleasure.


Boiled Dinner

3 to 5 pounds corned beef

1 tablespoon pickling spice (or use spices that often come with corned beef)

4 or 5 russet or Yukon gold potatoes, quartered

4 or 5 carrots, peeled and cut in chunks

3 or 4 onions, peeled and cut in halves

1 small cabbage cut in 6 wedges

2 tablespoons horseradish


8 ounces sour cream

Place corned beef and spices in a large, heavy pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook on low heat for 1½ to 2 hours or 30 minutes per pound. When beef is done, remove to a platter and cover and keep in a warm place. Add potatoes, carrots, onions and cabbage to broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook vegetables until tender. On a cutting board, slice meat as thinly as possible. Return to platter and using a slotted spoon, surround beat with the vegetables. Mix horseradish and sour cream and serve as a sauce if desired. Serves 6.

Note: I always reserve the broth to use for soup.

Corned Beef Hash with Fried Eggs

1 pound baking potatoes, cooked (until barely tender), cooled and diced

1 large onion, chopped

1 large garlic clove, minced

4 tablespoons butter


½ pound cooked corned beef (about 2 cups) chopped

2 to 4 gently fried eggs


In a large nonstick pan cook onion and garlic in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is golden. Add potatoes and cook until slightly browned. Add corned beef, salt and pepper to taste and cook over moderate heat, turning hash, until browned and crisp, about 15 minutes. Serve hash with fried eggs and horseradish. Serves 2.

Note: I usually make wells in the hash, break in the eggs and cover until eggs are cooked. However, the hash will not be crispy.

Resources: "The Food Lover's Companion" by Sharon Tyler Herbst; "Pickled, Potted and Canned" by Sue Shepard and

Andrea Hunter Halgrimson writes a weekly food column for The Forum. Readers can reach her at

What To Read Next
Get Local