Sunday, October 12, 2014

Smoked Sausage Hash


Disclaimer: This conversation is sponsored and I received compensation for this post. The opinions and text are all mine.

A great hash is an indispensable dish to add to your kitchen repertoire. Perfect for any meal of the day, it's relatively easy to whip up and can be adapted to almost any ingredients you have on hand. It's always nice to be able to make use of my cast iron skillet for a one-pot meal. I've shared a couple hash recipes here, such as my Sweet Potato, Bacon & Apple Hash earlier this year and one of my early recipes, White Sweet Potato & Turkey Sausage Hash. Recently, Johnsonville asked me to come up with a "kicked up classic" recipe to share using their fully cooked split rope sausage. For this recipe, I went back to more of a traditional hash using white potatoes, smoked sausage and green peppers. It's a humble dish, but when you take the time to do something right the results can really pay off.


I made use of Johnsonville's Polish Kielbasa pork sausage here, but honestly any of their varieties would work great in this recipe so by all means switch it up. What I hope you'll take away from the recipe is that good technique really pays off in this case to transform some relatively inexpensive ingredients. I took some lessons from Serious Eats' The Food Lab: How to Make the Best Potato Hash to refine my hash making skills and the results were awesome. I ended up with crusty potatoes, caramelized nuggets of smoked sausage, and crisp tender peppers and onions with just the right amount of seasoning to bring it all together. Just goes to show you that even something you've made plenty of times before can always be improved upon - my definition of a kicked up classic!


We enjoyed this Smoked Sausage Hash as part of a weeknight breakfast for dinner, also known as "brinner" in the food world. Fresh buttermilk biscuits and a fried egg were easy accompaniments, and I love how a cast iron skillet becomes the perfect serving dish for a rustic meal. Whether you're looking for something to serve at a casual brunch, or just need an easy cheap meal to get you through the week - hash is always your answer.

Smoked Sausage Hash

Ingredients:
13.5 oz. pack of Johnsonville Polish Kielbasa Split Rope Sausages
1 1/2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into 1" cubes
2 green bell peppers, diced (approximately 1 c.)
1 large sweet onion, diced (approximately 1 c.)
1/4 c. sliced scallions
1/4 c. chopped parsley
2 tbsp bacon fat or butter
1/4 c. canola oil, plus more as needed
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Your favorite bbq or cajun spice rub, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
Kosher salt, to taste

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 30 to 40 min
Equipment Needed: Steamer basket (microwave or stove top), heavy skillet (preferably cast iron)


Taking my notes from Serious Eats, the first thing I tackled was par-cooking the potatoes. After scrubbing well, I diced the potatoes into uniform chunks. That's important for even cooking later. You don't want larger pieces that are still hard on the inside, and smaller pieces that have turned to mush. I don't use the microwave often, but a steamer basket comes in handy for these tasks instead of heating up boiling water. Just toss the potatoes with 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and a healthy pinch of salt. The vinegar adds some flavor to the potatoes and works to hold the structure of the potato together when it cooks, while allowing the interior to get soft. I steamed my potatoes for about 5 minutes; just enough to where a butter knife could pierce pretty easily. 

If you don't have a steamer basket, you can boil the potatoes in salted water; just add the vinegar to the cooking water.


While the potatoes steamed, I preheated my cast iron skillet over medium high heat and started prepping my other ingredients. The nice thing about this hash is that there's plenty of time in between steps to chop and dice as you go, so you don't need to spend an extraordinary amount of time prepping before you get started. The easiest way to dice up your sausage evenly is as shown below. You'll end up with uniform pieces that will all cook at the same rate in the skillet.


Add a couple tablespoons of canola oil to your skillet and brown the Kielbasa well. I do mean brown! Leave it to sear on each side for a few minutes at a time before stirring around. Take it all the way to the point that a deep caramelized crust starts to build on your sausage pieces. This is how you start to build real flavor - there is simply no substitute for time!


When your Kielbasa is crisped up, remove it from the skillet. I suggest just having a large paper-towel lined bowl off to the side because you'll add the potatoes to it later as well. It's nice to soak up a little extra oil that was needed in the cooking process, hence the paper towel. 

Add the remaining 1/4 cup of canola oil and your diced, steamed potatoes to the skillet with a pinch of salt. Also add some bacon fat. This is a secret weapon in the kitchen. Any time I can, I save rendered fat from cooking bacon and store it in a mason jar in the fridge. It's an easy way to add a ton of extra flavor to your dishes, especially potatoes (of any kind.) If you don't have bacon fat, butter works too... but bacon fat will take your hash to another level.


That might seem like a lot of fat, and it is, but it's really necessary for the potatoes to properly crisp up in the skillet so you end up with a flavorful crispy hash. You're essentially pan frying them, and just be patient because it's going to take some time - about 20 minutes or so. Just like the sausage, leave the potatoes alone for a few minutes at a time to allow one side to sear before tossing them. 


You'll get to a point about 10 minutes in where the potatoes are golden brown, but not necessarily crisp. Don't stop here! Rookie mistake. Just let them keep browning. 


Do you see the difference above? At this point, the potatoes are crisp to the touch and soft inside. I gotta say, I don't eat white potatoes all that much so it always seems like such a special treat now when I do. Maybe that's what excites me about this hash and why I wanted to take the time to do it right.

Now you can season the potatoes with some of your bbq spice rub. I wanted to keep this recipe simple, so it's really okay to use whatever blend you have on hand. Try to find something with a smoky touch to it, like smoked sea salt and smoked paprika. I used a couple tablespoons of my spices, and then checked the seasoning to adjust how much salt I needed. Keep in mind, the sausage will be added back into the skillet which adds some salt as well.

If you don't have any ready made spice blend on hand, here's an easy mix:
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp hickory smoked sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne


After the potatoes are seasoned, allow them to finish crisping up a few more minutes. They should be the texture of crispy steak cut french fries. Delicious.


Transfer your potatoes to your bowl and set aside. You should still have a decent amount of oil left in the skillet. If not, add a tablespoon before throwing in your diced onions and peppers and a pinch of salt. As veggies soften and release some of their moisture, use your wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet so you get all of that flavor into your hash. With the high heat of the skillet, this should only take a few minutes - you want crisp tender peppers and onions. They'll still have a little bite left.


You're just about done now! Splash some hot sauce in there to add a kick - as little or as much as your taste desires.


Return the potatoes and Kielbasa to your skillet and toss to combine everything. Make sure you check your seasonings too and make any adjustments necessary.


To finish the hash off, stir in those sliced scallions and chopped parsley. I love adding a bit of freshness back to my dishes for the best balance of flavors.


There you have it... a beautiful, crispy smoked sausage hash. This is ready to serve immediately while it's hot!

 
Now for some pro tips...

My favorite accompaniment for hash is a fried egg on top. I wait until my hash is completely done cooking, as the eggs only take a minute to fry up. In a smaller nonstick skillet over medium heat, add a couple tablespoons of butter or bacon fat. When it sizzles, crack in your eggs - I stick to one or two at a time for this size skillet. Once the whites set, I turn the heat down to low and cover the skillet. This helps the top of the egg whites to finish cooking faster, leaving the yolks runny. When the eggs are just about cooked through, I season with salt & cracked pepper, and use a spoon to baste the egg whites with some of the hot butter or bacon fat. 


If you can handle a little bit of multi-tasking, homemade buttermilk biscuits are also easy to pull off while your hash is frying up. The best thing to do is prepare your biscuit dough ahead of time and arrange the cut biscuits on your baking sheet. Slide it into the freezer and let it hang out until you're ready to bake. This can be done as far in advance as you need - if you'll be freezing them for more than a couple hours, transfer the unbaked biscuits to a ziploc freezer bag after they harden completely.

20 minutes or so before your hash will be done (let's say while your potatoes are cooking) you can brush the biscuits with butter and pop them into your preheated oven.


At around the same time your hash is done, you'll also have fresh hot buttermilk biscuits ready to serve as well! This will make your life so much easier if you're serving up brunch or another big breakfast, because the messy part of making biscuits was done ahead of time.


Smoked sausage hash, fried eggs and a biscuit! Nothing like some nice country homecooking once in awhile - this is a comfort food classic, done right!