What happens when a restaurant group rounds up a few chefs and challenges them to create a new dish? Usually not much. Chefs are great at putting a spin on a dish, reinterpreting a dish, or coming up with a good mash-up. But rarely do we see a whole new dish come together from ingredients at hand with mind-blowing results. This is the happy story of one such dish, and it’s called Bear Valley Hash.
Hiding in the back of the Bear Valley Shopping Center, at 3100 South Sheridan Boulevard, lies a popular neighborhood sports bar called the Doghouse Tavern. Inside, the walls are adorned with images of dogs, and the atmosphere is laid-back. The Doghouse Tavern opened in August 2009 and is locally owned and operated by Mark Berzins's Little Pub Company.
The menu kept me busy enough that I probably never would have tried the Bear Valley Hash without the insistence of a friend. I’m glad she persuaded me, though, because the culinary gods shined some love on me that day — kind of like the first time you heard "Stairway to Heaven."
The Bear Valley Hash begins with a generous serving of crispy, crunchy, golden-brown tater tots, which are then smashed on the griddle with smoked pulled pork and topped with cheddar and Jack cheeses. That would be tasty enough by itself, but the kicker is that the hash is then topped with primo Hatch green chile and a few squiggles of sour cream for good measure. The dish was so good that I felt compelled to dig deeper and unlock its mysteries.
I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love tater tots. And cheddar and Jack cheese — always yummy, while sour cream tames the heat of the chiles (at least in theory). But the two co-stars are the pork green chile and the smoked pulled pork. An unlikely pairing, like Lucy and Ricky, but they play well together.
Making the green chile falls to longtime employee Michael DuVall, who coincidentally goes by the nickname “Dawg." After many years and many thousands of gallons of stew made from scratch, Dawg is like the green chile whisperer.
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Dawg's green chile will get your attention in the heat department. The Hatch chiles are fire-roasted and supported with an array of jalapeños, serranos, tomatillos, onions, garlic, roasted pork, roux, time and love. (Note to self: Check to see if I can buy this stuff by the quart to go.)
The addition of the chile to the hash gives it a pleasing body and just enough background heat to make it fun without overpowering everything. The chefs were probably just goofing around when they threw everything together on a hot griddle, but the green chile with the tater tots is epic.
I confess, I tried to make this dish at home and it was a massive fail; there's just no shortcut for the Doghouse's honest-to-goodness pulled pork — rubbed with the special house seasonings and then smoked low and slow for hours over a blend of apple and hickory woods. The smoky, tender meat is just right atop tater tots — and is also available as a sandwich on a hoagie roll.
Served on a platter, the hash is easily big enough for two to four people to share as an appetizer, or one person to have as a meal. It’s rich, hearty, gooey, crispy, cheesy, and flavorful as all get-out. You can count on this lip-smacking creation to go perfectly with your favorite ice cold beer. As to its creation, it could go down in the annals of serendipity, but I have to believe the Bear Valley Hash was inspired.