04 February 2021

Disney Culinary History

Recipes from the past give us some insight into what dining and palates were like at a given point or time. Recipes that are attributed as being favorites of a specific person can offer us a sliver of what that person may have been like. When you reach into the Walt Disney Archives for Walt Disney “Favorite Recipes” you’re getting a bit of both. Much has been made over the years about Walt’s Chili and Beans, but today I wanted to branch out a bit and move towards a dish that is a play on one of my favorite dishes, but also brings in breakfast, and has a bit of a mystery to it.
 
If I am out and about for breakfast (those were the good old days), more often than not I am going to order corned beef hash, with the egg on the side if the missus is with me or sans egg if I’m alone. It is quite literally the meat and potatoes of breakfast foods. Walt’s version was a bit different, and was known as Browned Roast Beef Hash.
 
A point of clarification here, while it is known as one of Walt’s favorites, credit should be given to Thelma Pearl Howard, the housekeeper and cook to Walt and his family. Thelma worked for the Disney family from 1951 through 1981 and is the originator of many of Walt’s recipes. Her recipe has been featured in everything from the 1986 book, Cooking with Mickey Around our World, to the 2017 history and cookbook, Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food, and with good reason. Let’s get to the recipe itself and then we’ll talk through some of the finer points.
 
 
BROWNED ROAST BEEF HASH
 
Ingredients:
 
3 Cups Peeled Potatoes (finely chopped)
2 Cups (approximately 1 pound) Precooked Roast Beef (finely chopped, prime rib or steak can be substituted)
1 1/2 Cups Onion (finely chopped)
1 Cup Beef Stock
4 Eggs (fried)
6 Tbsps. Butter (divided)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
 
Directions:
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking dish.
Lightly sauté onions in 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium until translucent (approximately 3-4 minutes).
Stir in meat, potatoes, and stock.
Transfer ingredients into baking dish and back for 1 hour.
Remove hash from oven.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Spread hash mixture evenly in the skillet, season to taste.
Cook over medium-high heat until bottom is golden brown (approximately 5 minutes).
Flip and continue cooking until the other side is golden brown as well.
Spoon onto serving plates and top with a fried egg.
Makes four servings.
 
I’m going to tell you now, the recipe sounds like you’re making has patties, which is exactly how we attempted to cook the hash. However, you may notice there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a binding agent for such preparation. A little digging shows us that even Marcy Carriker Smothers, the author of Eat Like Walt, couldn’t account for its absence, “Perhaps someone in Walt’s office asked Thelma for her recipe? It’s plausible that she casually dictated it since she never wrote her recipes down. The answer may be lost to Disney culinary history, but there is still fun to be had with this recipe.”
 

Smothers is absolutely correct. It also strikes me that some of the best hashes I’ve ever had weren’t the perfectly formed patty, golden-brown on each side, but a mess of potatoes, meat, and onion. I would worry less about making it perfectly formed, and focus more on the seasoning and making sure there is a bit of charring or browning to the finished product. This is what we did as we went through the back half of the hash mixture. If you are looking for the perfect patty, however, definitely work in some breadcrumbs or other binder to your version. While a bit time consuming to make, it was well worth the effort.
 
It may not be the perfect recreation of a dish Walt Disney dined on, but it is still delicious and gives you a strong jumping off point for you to putter with in your own kitchen. The Browned Roast Beef Hash is a hearty start to any day, whether it’s the 1950s or the 2020s.

No comments: