Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Corned Beef for St. Patrick's Day

There are years when I don’t do anything special for St. Patrick’s Day. I may not even wear green. Even though part of my genealogy is Irish. I certainly wouldn’t ever drink green beer, but then I’m not a beer drinker anyway. What tilted me over the edge this time was seeing a Niman Ranch corned beef round at Trader Joe’s. You’ve heard it from me before, Niman Ranch makes some mighty fine meat products. The corned beef I bought was called a “corned beef round,” so I’d guess it was a slightly different cut. It had absolutely NO fat on it at all, and cost me about $14.00 for 5 pounds.

I also knew exactly what recipe I would make, too. My friend Linda T, a very good cook, has told me about her recipe for a couple of years, and I’ve been meaning to make this, so it was time.

The ingredients in this version aren’t all that different, but the cooking method IS a bit unusual: you simmer (always below a boil) the corned beef for 3 ½ to 4 hours, then cool the meat in the water until it reaches nearly room temp. (My guess is that time allows time for the meat to reabsorb some of the liquid it lost during the long slow simmering time). You remove the meat, spread it with a glaze and bake it for about 45 minutes before serving with vegetables you simmered in the cooking water from the beef. So you need to plan ahead with this – it’s not that it takes much hands-on time (it doesn’t), but you need to watch over the pot on the stove so it doesn’t boil (a very important aspect of this dish). It’s like braising – long, slow cooking at just under a boil. Keeps the meat more moist and succulent.

I wasn’t totally successful keeping the pot below a boil – I needed to run a couple of errands, and left the pot on the stove during that time. When I got back and lifted the lid, it was bubbling away. Perhaps a safer method would be to put the corned beef in a crock pot and pour boiling water over it, add the pickling spices and turn it to low right then and there. I’m not certain what temperature a crock pot on low is, but the beef might need a few more hours of that slow cooking than normal. With my crock pot (which is very old) on high it is boiling. I should measure the temp of the food one of these times when I use it.

If you use regular potatoes, just cut them into 4-6 pieces so everything will be done at about the same time. My favorite part of the vegetables is always the cabbage, especially simmered in that flavorful water. All the vegetables were done at the same time (I used fairly small carrots – if larger, you might want to give them an extra 5-10 minutes before you add all the other veggies).

The beef was moist and juicy. Easy to slice into thin pieces. The flavor? Outstanding. I’d make this again soon. If I could get more of Trader Joe’s corned beef, that is. I’ll have to look and see if they still have some and I might just buy one to make in a few weeks.

Cook’s Notes: remember to keep the corned beef below a boil during the 3-4 hours of simmering. Time the vegetables so they’re just done when the corned beef comes out of the oven. And save the cooking liquid – you use it for the veggies.

Corned Beef for St. Patrick's Day
Recipe By: From my friend Linda T. and she got it from her friends Jane & Auggie R.
Serving Size : 6
5 pounds corned beef brisket -- flat cut, if possible (more meaty)
1 tablespoon pickling spice
10 whole cloves
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup Madeira
10 small potatoes
8 medium carrots
1 whole cabbage -- cut in quarters
1 whole onions -- peeled, cut in half
1. Remove corned beef from package and discard all spices (if any) from the package. Trim off all visible fat, then place in a large, heavy pot. Fill with water to barely cover the corned beef. Bring it to a boil, cover and reduce to a bare simmer. Do not let the water boil at any time during this cooking process. Check the pot frequently to make sure it isn't boiling. Cook the beef for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
2. Remove pot from heat, remove lid and allow the mixture to cool to just above room temperature. This is an important step. It will take about 1 1/2 hours. Remove brisket from the water and place in an open roasting pan. Keep the liquid you used to boil the meat, as you'll use it to cook the vegetables. Stud the beef with whole cloves.
3. Preheat oven to 350. Combine in a small bowl the dark brown sugar, dry mustard and Madeira. Rub all over the brisket and place pan in heated oven for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven twice (15-minute intervals) and baste the meat with the glaze.4. Reheat the cooking water from the meat. Prepare vegetables and after the beef has been in the oven for 15 minutes, add vegetables to the pot on the range. Do not overcook the vegetables. Serve the meat hot with horseradish and hot/sweet mustards, and with all the vegetables around it.

No comments: