Q: As a young boy, I dined many times at the Walnut Room in the Marshall Field's State Street store. I have searched all over the Internet, bought the Marshall Field's cookbook, but alas, I have not found the recipe for corned beef hash served at the Walnut Room. Do you have any sources for this recipe? It seems to have just vanished!
--Greg Krasick, Burr Ridge
Q: When I was a kid, back in the 60's, my grandmother used to take me to Marshall Fields for lunch. I remember ordering corned beef hash and that it had a great sauce or mayo (it was a LONG time ago) that went on it. I have never seen it since. Do you know if a recipe exists? I always loved it and would love to make it today.
--Laurel Saltzman, Oak Park
A: I'm sure there is a complete recipe for Marshall Field's famed corned beef hash somewhere. Alas, I haven't found it yet. But I am hoping there's a reader out there who may have it – or have a friend or a friend of a friend with this precious recipe – scaled for home use.
I checked the Tribune's newspaper archives, where an Oct. 31, 1941 advertisement posed the question: "Corned beef hash for tea?" The reply is immediate. "Yes, our customers ask for Marshall Field & Company's famous Corned Beef Hash at all hours of the day. Not long ago we tried to take it off the tea-time menu, but no one would let us. We agree it's delicious. The secret of its fluffy lightness and its special sauce is the recipe we've used since the Tea Rooms were first opened in the nineties." That's the 1890s, for you younger readers.
Then I looked for corned beef hash recipes that sounded similar to the Marshall Field's hash, which was described in one Walnut Room menu from the 1950s as "oven browned corned beef hash made from freshly cooked corned beef and served in casserole, special sauce." Served with it: "Chef's salad with Field's French dressing." All for $1.90!
What caught my eye in particular was a recipe that ran in the Chicago Tribune on Nov. 6, 1950. Written by Ruth Ellen Church, the Tribune's longtime food editor, under her "Mary Meade" pen name, the column began this way: "Many a restaurant maintains a reputation for its fine corned beef hash. Sometimes it's served with tartar sauce, sometimes with chili sauce. Occasionally it comes with a poached egg and a garnish of parsley. Almost everybody now and then has to satisfy a craving for corned beef hash." I thought immediately of Marshall Field's.
Mary Meade's solution to that hash hunger? Two cans of corned beef hash baked in a ring mold with scrambled eggs in the middle. Add biscuits or corn muffins, broiled tomato halves and "lots of coffee" and you have a Sunday brunch for six, she writes. (Below is the recipe, which interestingly doesn't specify what size cans to use.)
Still in pursuit of the Marshall Field's recipe, I called the folks at Macy's, which owned Field's, and the Chicago History Museum.
From Macy's I received a photocopy of an index card from the Marshall Field's kitchens containing a shorthand recipe for making and serving the dish. But there's no clue on how to make the hash itself or any sauce. See the instructions below. The card features three typewritten dates without any explanation.
"We do believe the recipe your reader is referring to was developed in 1949, adjustments were made in 1964 and the last time it was updated was 1977," wrote Lauren Dolan Rapisand, regional media relations manager for Macy's, in an email.
The Chicago History Museum found the recipe for the hash itself, restaurant-sized to fill 48, 96 or 144 orders. (You'll need 37 1/2 pounds of corned beef to plate 144 servings.) Dates on the card range from July 25, 1944 to Oct. 12, 1982, and someone typed on "Micro-wave" instructions. Missing from the recipe are instruction on how to make the "special dressing." I've included the recipe below for the smallest possible quantity -- 48 orders. You'll have to figure out how to reduce the proportions for home use (or maybe not. Throw a giant hash party).
In the meantime, I'm turning to the Daley Question readers for help. In the past, they've come up with almost every sought-after recipe I've asked after -- often in an embarrassingly short time. If you think you have the Marshall Field's corned beef hash recipe scaled for the home kitchen -- bonus points for the sauce -- do contact me as listed below.
Baked corned beef hash ring
Makes: 6 servings.
From "Dress Up Corned Beef Hash for Sunday Brunch," a column by Mary Meade from the Chicago Tribune of Nov. 6, 1950.
Pack two cans of corned beef hash into a greased 1 quart ring mold and bake in a moderate oven, 350 degrees, about 30 minutes. Turn out onto a hot chop plate and keep warm while you scramble eggs for six. Place the eggs in the center of your hash ring, add a couple of sprigs of parsley, and you have brunch.
Assembling Marshall Field's corned beef hash
Makes: 1 serving