Sunday, March 24, 2013

Facing High Heat

Ah-ha!  Corned beef hash, you old culinary nemesis of mine, I got your number today, didn't I?

Canned corned beef hash has always been one of my favorite breakfast meats.  It takes me right back to the joys of a fairly modest childhood.  It was expensive enough to be a treat, but inexpensive enough to be on the table of a couple of full-time public school teachers in Mississippi.  Done just right, cooked up to a crisp and served with an egg or three and some ketchup and hot sauce, and it's awesome--the best meat that can possibly accompany a breakfast anywhere, anytime, in fact.

Yes, I know--eww, canned. Corned beef hash is about the only meat I enjoy coming out of a can--well, that and Vienna sausages, for the same reason.  Oh, and there are all manner of fish they put inside of a can that make my still-Southern taste buds sing.  But most beefs, hams, etc., in a can have a well-defined spot on the spectrum of inedibleness.  That said, I've had hand-made beef hash, made with freshly-cut chunks and shreds of potato and beef, and it's just not the same.  Sorry, when it comes to CBH, give me canned every time.

I've always had a hard time cooking it, though.  I know, it ain't exactly rocket science.  You open a can of what looks like it might be better destined for the cat's bowl, you schlock it out into a frying pan, and you heat it up.  Easy peasy, right?

Not so much.

Each time I've tried in the past I've gotten a greasy flaccid mess that looks nothing like the crisp golden-brown platter of goodness I've had at great Southern restaurants.  Tastes nothing like it, too.

This time was different, though.  I dropped an egg into a frying pan that was too hot and watched it turn brown and crispy around the edges almost immediately.  Eureka!  With this fresh discovery in mind I reached over and cranked the burner that bore the weight of a frying pan full of CBH right up to maximum heat.

Put simply: I nuked it.

It was good.

Now, being an amateur cook who's been working on that craft for decades, I know there are very few foods that high heat does much good for.  Most need medium heat, and lowering the burner often makes the result better.

Corned beef hash, though, needs really high heat to become what it's destined to be, apparently.

That's like some of us, right?  (yes, I really was going somewhere with the CBH talk)

The "heat" in our lives isn't something physical like a burner, but rather the difficult challenges we face.  Sometimes it's the criticism of a friend.  Sometimes it's an awful experience with a critique group.  Sometimes it's a bad evaluation--or worse--at work.  There are all sorts of events that make us feel uncomfortable, that make us squirm.

The best response, as you know, is to learn what you can from the heat and move on.  Unfortunately most of us, as a matter of human nature, require the heat to be applied in order to kick into "learn what I can and move on" mode.

Some of us just require a bit more heat than others, though, right?

So next time things get really, really bad, just imagine yourself as the corned beef hash in a Southern family's breakfast.  The heat sucks to go through, but the result--you!--will be far better than anything else out there.


(wow, now that was a helluva metaphor.  I think I could hear William Faulkner turn over in his grave from here)

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