Back in vogue

Kevin Sharkey

Corned beef was one of those foods that sat perennially in the pantry of my parent’s kitchen, opaque jelly covering pinkish meat in an oblong can.

Let’s not mince words: straight from the can, it’s not aesthetically pleasing.

But people around me seemed to love it, and serve it. My grandfather would layer it with sauerkraut and mustard in a sandwich (rye if it was on hand), my mom would put it in a crockpot with cabbage and potatoes and carrots, and once in awhile a friend’s grandmother would make hash with it and serve it to us with toast (for breakfast or dinner).

The older folks, the grandmas and grandpas, liked corned beef because they’d grown up eating it. The canned meat was popular in both World Wars when food was rationed. They fed it to their kids, who also grew to like it, and then they fed it to us.

And despite the weird gelatin in the can, I grew to like it too.

It’s a salted-cured meat, like country ham, so it’s savory and brackish with no added effort. The “corned” part comes from Old English, where “corns” are hard particles, like the salt used to cure the beef.

Corned beef hash was really the dish I enjoyed best, perhaps because breakfast is indisputably the most pleasurable meal of the day — for me. There’s that golden hour of sunlight and everything is quiet. And there’s coffee.

So I found myself driving down Diagonal Highway one morning, that perfect sunlight spilling over the foothills, on a mission for breakfast.

In a corner of Prospect New Town in Longmont is the Two Dog Diner. It’s the perfect diner, small with an open kitchen, windows all around the dining room so folks can look out as they eat. The tables are simply set with paper napkins, a fork, a spoon and a knife, a sugar caddy and salt and pepper shakers.

The shakers at my table were porcelain unicorns. There were electric mixer shakers, cacti, houses, and of course, little dogs at other tables. The Two Dog pulls off cute without venturing into kitschy.

And on their menu is corned beef hash.

In a rush of nostalgia I ordered it, eggs over easy.

Now, hash has always been seen as kind of a last resort for breakfast. It’s how you use up the leftovers in the fridge.

But as of late, as it is with most foods, hash seems to have come back into vogue, and with good reason. It’s simple, but it’s versatile; it involves a protein, a starch and vegetables. And why wouldn’t you want to use all the leftovers in your fridge? (It’s a game at my house to see what I can make for dinner when the fridge has hit bachelor status.)

The corned beef hash at Two Dog was a traditional hash like the kind I ate as a kid: the beef sautéed with tri-colored bell peppers, garlic and potatoes, over easy eggs on top for a rush of gooey yolk, and marbled rye served on the side as a perfect crusty instrument for delivering egg-soaked hash to the mouth.

And don’t worry — they’re served up with extra potatoes for good measure.

With a hot cup of coffee to wash it all down, the meal was as comforting as it was as a child

This may be a little premature, but Sept. 27 is National Corned Beef Hash Day here in the U.S. So if you’re jonesing for a little nostalgia, head to Two Dog Diner and celebrate the odd, tasty treat that is corned beef hash.

Two Dog Diner. 645 Tenacity Drive, Longmont, 303-772-2364.