Red Flannel Hash even sounds warm. A few weeks ago someone wrote to ask if anyone had a recipe for it and I thought, I know how to make that! An image of an old-fashioned New England boiled dinner floated before my mind’s eye. Corned beef and white potatoes, yellow rutabaga, orange carrots, maybe pale-green cabbage, and brilliant deep-red beets were all clustered on a platter. In boiled dinner, the vegetables have the meat seriously outnumbered, and the smart cook makes sure that there are plenty of them for leftovers because that’s how we get to hash.

I have always been of the school of thought that the beets ought to be cooked separately from the other boiled dinner ingredients because they will turn everything a ghastly pinkish red. It will taste fine, but you will want to keep your eyes closed to eat. When it all meets up in hash then the red is entirely acceptable; in fact, without it, you can’t get the red flannel sort.

Truly, red flannel or any other kind of corned beef hash is the best kind of leftover. Day one is the boiled dinner. This recipe is predicated on the number of people. Corned beef shrinks, so be sure to get 4 to 5 pounds of it for a dinner for four with enough left over for hash. Then add at least one potato for each person, plus a couple, and at least one whole carrot per person, plus a couple more, and so on. How much rutabaga or turnip you add depends on your family’s taste. Some folks like some onions boiled with the dinner.

I usually peel and cut the vegetables up so that they will cook in a similar amount of time, but I am not scientific about this, and don’t fuss if the carrots are more tender than the potatoes. I do like my cabbage tender and my beets separate. I cook the beef first until it is fork-tender, then heave in the vegetables and let them sink to the bottom and let the beef sit on top to stay hot.

In a day or two, when I want to make hash, I chop the meat up one of several ways — either on a cutting board with a big knife, or sometimes I use a favorite old chopping bowl and chopping knife with a handle on top. I usually avoid a food processor because we like our hash a bit more coarse, and a processor can reduce it to too-fine very quickly. The vegetables get the same treatment: all of them, beets included, mixed together and I usually add raw, finely chopped onion.

If the beef is fatty enough, I don’t have to add any other oil or grease, but sometimes it is lean and a drizzle of vegetable oil helps. We like our hash crisp, so I cook it on high on an iron griddle. It is good for breakfast or supper, with an egg dropped on top. Or not. The beets’ red clashes with ketchup’s red, but you might not want to forgo the classic hash condiment.

Boiled Dinner

Makes 4 servings

4-5 pounds corned beef brisket

6 large potatoes

6-8 large carrots

1 small rutabaga or half a large one

1 small cabbage or half a large one

6-8 medium beets

3-4 small onions


Cover the beef with boiling water and simmer steadily for about one hour for each pound of meat. Prepare the vegetables, quartering the potatoes, cutting the carrots into 3-inch or so chunks, the rutabaga into chunks slightly smaller than the potatoes, and boil the onions whole. Add the vegetables 30 to 40 minutes before serving, and add the cabbage 15 minutes before the end. Cook the beets separately and peel them and reserve them, keeping them hot. Serve the dinner on one large platter, slice the beef against the grain and pass mustard with it.

Red Flannel Hash

Save and chill boiled dinner leftovers. Chop the beef and vegetables separately but to your taste as far as texture is concerned, then mix on the griddle. Don’t forget to add the beets. If you wish, chop a small onion and add it to the mixture which you fry on a pan, turning the hash when it crisps on one side.

Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...