The Auntie Em’s Cookbook: Recipe #1–Vegetarian Red Flannel Hash

On the Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend, we honored our toiling fore-parents by sleeping in. This was necessary work after a month of early rises and painful awakenings thanks to our house project.

While Rox continued to doze, Jon and I wandered into the kitchen to make some breakfast. I dragged my new Auntie Em’s Cookbook with me…just in case.

I say “just in case” because we don’t exactly have a well-stocked fridge at the moment. We’ve been practicing the Ninja form of grocery shopping in which one slips in and out of the food emporium, fast as fire, to grab the three essential items from a much longer list. The one saving grace to this unfortunate habit has been our produce box, which continues to arrive on our doorstep every other late Tuesday night with lovely organic vegetables and fruits for us to devour.

“Ooo, these Pumpkin Pancakes with Persimmons & Pecans sound fab,” I said to Jon as he fed the cats. “Do we have any pumpkin?”

“Um…nope,” he said after digging around in the pantry.

“How about pears? We could make this Pear & Ginger Baked French Toast.”

“We ate all the fruit.”

“Any tomatoes? There’s a Baked Egg and…”

“Sadly, no.”

I peered into the fridge. Lurking in the crisper were some beets (greens having already been consumed the night before), a few peppers of unknown name and green-yellowy hue, and celery. We also had potatoes, eggs, cheese and the de rigueur line-up of mustards, jams and chutneys that all modern fridges come pre-populated with. Something could surely be made with this fine assortment of ingredients!

I returned to the book and almost immediately landed on the page for Vegetarian Red Flannel Hash.

I’ve always loved hash, even that crazy Hormel kind in the can with the too-uniform cubes of white and erasure-pink food material (optimists call it potato and something pig-esque). Since becoming a vegetarian in high school, that hash has disappeared from my diet, as has most other hash due to its potato and meat-stuff make-up. Hooray, then, for Theresa Wahl and her veggie-friendly cooking!

I skimmed the recipe’s ingredient list and spied beets, potatoes, onion, garlic and eggs. No, we didn’t have an onion, but we could use one of those peppers perhaps? And instead of the fresh dill and parsley Wahl calls for we could do dried herbs… Any lingering doubts were quashed as I took in the perfectly staged, colorful, close-up photo of the completed dish in all its purple, orange, yellow, white and bright-green glory.

We set to work. I preheated the oven to 450 degrees, while Jon chopped the equivalent of 2½ medium potatoes (we halved the recipe). Next, I peeled and diced the same amount of small beets. Instead of a ½ small onion, Jon de-seeded, de-veined and diced one of those yellowy, bent peppers and then measured the equivalent of 1½ cloves of garlic from our jar of the pre-chopped stuff. It was only then, thanks to our unbearably slow oven, that we tackled the recipe’s first step: pouring 1/8 cup of olive oil into our cast iron pan and heating it to sizzling inside that presumably roaringly hot, dark space.

We tossed all the chopped vegetables with a tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, added some dried dill and parsley, and then dumped it into the hot cast iron pan, spreading everything Zen-garden smooth. Scooted back into the oven, it all roasted for 25 minutes.

When the veggies were caramelized and the kitchen smelled more of root vegetable and olive oil than plaster and tools, Jon pulled the cast iron pan from the oven. He scraped and stirred the veggie pile, plus all the brown bits, and then made two round divots…nests, really…in the colorful hash. That’s where the two eggs went after cracking—and before the pan headed back into the oven for a final 3-5 minutes.

The results: First, I must admit that we didn’t listen to the recommended tune “Flavor” by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion while cooking. We were too focused on all the R&B coming out of Songza.

But the name at least is PERFECT for this recipe. Vegetarian Red Flannel Hash is amazingly flavorful, even with our substitutions. The roasted veggie flavors—sweet-edged savory, tangy gone earthy—are the exactly right match for a poached egg and some yummy herbs. Jon and I scarfed up our portions while Roxy, awake by this time, sleepy-cute and jonesing for Cheerios, looked on in wonder.

“Why is your bowl purple?” she asked when Jon finished.

“Beets!” he sang.

My only question is why the reference to red flannel? Is this good lumberjack food? A nod to the recipe’s colors? Or a wink to the Seattle Sound of the ’90s?

Doesn’t matter. I’ll be making this again.

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