Monday, June 28, 2010

Recipe: Beet "Hash Browns"

A somewhat shocking fact: I have never in my life eaten a beet until this week.

Last Saturday, I was intrigued by all the beets I saw at the farmer's market. At one particular stand, they were so ruby red and vibrant that I couldn't help buying a bundle of them. What was I going to do with them? Well, I would figure that part out later.

Immediately I pulled down my copy of "How to Cook Everything," my go-to reference anytime I come across unfamiliar ingredients. The book advised me to cook the beet greens right away in a similar manner to swiss chard or other leafy greens, so I made them the next day and they were wonderful (you can find that recipe here). For the beets themselves, there were several suggestions - one of which was quite similar to a potato pancake (Mark Bittman's original recipe can be found here).  According to my cookbook, the sugars in the beet would caramelize and form lovely crisp edges, similar to a fritter or a potato pancake. It sounded terrific!

For some reason, my "pancake" didn't hold together very well, so I ended up with something far more similar to hash browns. And you know what? It was actually pretty good! Keep in mind, this was my first-ever bite of beets so I didn't know what to expect, but the shredded beets were tender with lovely crisp, caramelized edges. Even after cutting back on the butter, I mostly tasted the rosemary and brown butter. Thanks to this recipe, I've been entirely won over by beets - and I bet anyone else who doesn't like them would feel the same way!

Beet "Hash Browns"
1 lb fresh beets, scrubbed clean
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup flour
2-3 tbsp butter

Shred the beets with a food processor or box grater. Finely chop the rosemary.

In a bowl, combine shredded beets with rosemary, salt, pepper, and half of flour.

Mix together, allowing flour to finely coat the beets; when fully integrated, add the rest of the flour and stir to combine.

Warm a skillet over medium heat. Add butter and swirl pan until butter starts to brown. Add beet mixture to pan, pressing down with a spatula until beets are in a thin layer. Cook for 5-6 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally and adjusting the temperature if the beets start to brown too quickly.

At this point, Mark Bittman would advise you to flip the "pancake." If your experience is anything like mine, this will not work. Instead, just start flipping the larger sections of beet mixture and fry until crisp, another 5-6 minutes or so.  If you like, break up all the sections and you'll end with some lovely, crispy beet hash browns. 

These were crispy, savory, rich, and completely absent of the "dirt" flavor everyone complains about in beets. Not to mention it took less than 20 minutes to prepare!

Serves 2 as a side dish.

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