Friday, December 27, 2013

Romany Hash

Lists abound for end-of-year favorites, i. e. movies, books, theatre or whatever. So here's my favorite cookbook for 2013.

Bacon 24/7 by Theresa Gilliam, Countryman Press, 2013

Certainly an odd choice, given that my last post was about Vegetarians,  and Deborah Madison came out with a wonderful new book titled Vegetable Literacy.  But this one struck my fancy, and there you have it. Bacon 24/Seven has beautifully artistic photographs by EJ Armstrong with Theresa Gilliam's appealing recipes. I'm sure my vegetarian friends can find substitutes for the bacon in most recipes, so they won't miss out. I'd love to hear their ideas for "Bacon-wrapped stuffed dates."

What really got me started was this picture of a twice baked potato.

 "Baked potato Skins"  photographed by EJ Armstrong in Bacon 24/7

Memories of a version called Romany Hash flooded over me. My mother made these stuffed potatoes when we were growing up and we loved them. I didn't have the recipe so I cruised the internet for anything called "Romany Hash," and came up empty-handed. There are listings for "Romany," which means gypsy, but no hash.  Most recipes from the 1950s yield many responses on Google, but not this one. 

 I decided to check my mother's old metal recipe file one more time. This is one of my prized possessions, containing all my family's favorites, hand-written by my mother. Just the sight of her handwriting fills me with nostalgia and longing.

And—voila!—under the worn tab "Leftover Meats" was the slip of paper with the penciled recipe for Romany Hash. How had I missed it? I have no idea where she found the original; sometimes she cited a source or included a magazine clipping, but where she found this one remains a mystery. 

I remembered most of the ingredients, but had forgotten the bacon fat, which makes it perfect for this post. She put the potatoes through a ricer, one of her favorite tools and, If I'm not mistaken, she said to "anoint" the potatoes with bacon fat—a surprisingly poetic phrase for a practical Mid-western woman!

The reverse side of the recipe concludes with instructions to add bacon fat and butter, refill the potato skins with the filling and dot with paprika, and, after "anointing" the skins with bacon fat, bake in a moderate oven 15 to 20 minutes until heated through. This makes a delicious and savory main course, perfectly completed with a green salad.

The "baked potato skins" in Bacon 24/7  includes ranch dressing, cheddar cheese, and bacon instead of ham. This variation may be tasty, but I'll stick with my mother's Romany Hash.

Another tempting recipe from the book is "Brussels Sprouts with bacon, lemon and honey." My mother never added anything like bacon to her sprouts, she just steamed them and served them with butter, salt and pepper. Now it's the fashion to dress them up with vibrant seasonings or nuts or roast them with other veggies—I like all these variations.

Brussels sprouts with lemon and honey from Bacon 24/7

Recipe by T. Gilliam from Bacon 24/7,

                             Two more favorite cookbooks from 2013 will satisfy vegetable lovers

Deborah Madison, Vegetable Literacy, Ten Speed Press, 2013

Drew Ramsey, M.D.,  Fifty Shades of Kale,  HarperCollins, 2013


  1. Your post today filled me with nostalgia. I love going through my mom's and my grandmother's recipe boxes. There is such a connection both through the memories of the food we ate together and the handwritten recipe cards. As for bacon, I could eat it every day but try to limit it to several times per year. Always when we are camping or in the mountains, in the summer with vine ripened tomatoes in a BLT and for special occasion brunches! Yum!

    1. Good to hear that you're a bacon lover too. BLT's are my favorite sandwich! They sell a great one at the Ferry Plaza Saturday market and I often indulge when I work on Saturday.