Ham and Sweet Potato Hash

Except in South Carolina, where the term hash most often refers to a thick meat gravy served over rice (usually with pork barbecue), any dish of chopped meat, vegetables, and seasonings that is formed into a cake, fried till crispy, and topped with a fried or poached egg has been known to all Southerners as hash, ever since the lowly concept was popularized by diners, lunch counters, and cafeterias early in the twentieth century. By far the most beloved hash is that made with either leftover ham or pork and diced sweet potatoes, and in the past few years I’ve encountered upscale variations of this traditional dish even in a few fine restaurants. If you see “Ham & Sweet” listed on a diner or cafeteria menu, you can be sure the reference is to this hash (which might also contain a little spiced apple).

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cooked ham, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • cups diced cooked sweet potatoes (slightly firm in texture)
  • 2 medium onions, minced and sautéed in 2 tablespoons butter for 2 minutes
  • ½ large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground sage
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • Minced fresh parsley leaves

Method

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ham, sweet potatoes, onions, bell pepper, sage, salt and pepper, and cream, stir till well blended, and, with your hands, form into a large cake.

In a large, heavy skillet, melt half of the butter over moderately high heat, add the ham cake, and press down evenly with a spatula to form a compact oval cake. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook the hash about 5 minutes or till the underside is browned and crusty. Loosen the hash with the spatula and invert onto a plate. Add the remaining butter to the skillet and increase the heat slightly. Slide the other side of the hash into the skillet, reduce the heat to moderate, and cook about 5 minutes or till the other side is browned and crusty. Transfer the hash to a heated platter and keep warm.

Break the eggs gently into 1 or 2 saucepans of boiling water, poach for 2 minutes, and transfer with a slotted spoon to a clean cloth to drain. Top the hash with the poached eggs and sprinkle with minced parsley.