Today’s Recipes: James Beard’s Corned Beef and Cabbage, Baked Corned Beef with Sauteed Cabbage, Spice Rubbed Corned Beef, Cabbage with Bacon, Roasted Shallots, and Bleu Cheese Rye Toasts, and Horseradish Sauce.
Ah, St. Patrick’s Day is coming and we’re going to eat corned beef and cabbage just like they do in the Old Country. Wait, with the exception of Dublin and Cork, no one eats corned beef and cabbage in Ireland! This is an Irish-American tradition, based on the boiled dinners, often bacon and cabbage, that immigrants missed when they left home. It was modified to utilize the more readily available beef here in America. It has evolved into the annual tradition that everyone looks forward to on March 17th.
Today’s corned beef is either sold in a can or is a beef brisket that has been salt-cured, usually brined or “corned” with a coarse salt. The term “corned” refers to the large grains of salt used. This method of food preservation is common in many cultures around the world and corned beef is particularly prominent in Jewish, Irish-American, and Caribbean cuisines.
As with any salt-cured meat, corned beef must be boiled to remove the excess salt. Every year my mother would boil it for hours with the cabbage. She didn’t know which seasonings to add so it was always a bland, boring dinner. Because she only made it once a year, she never perfected the recipe. When I got older I decided to tackle this meal and see if I could improve it. There are several techniques you can use, but they all start with boiling the meat to remove the excess salt.
Corned beef is made from tougher cuts of meat, most often brisket, and requires long, slow cooking in a moist environment to tenderize it. This can be done on the stovetop or in the oven. Braising in liquid accomplishes this – the liquid can be simple water, you can add some beer, or chicken stock. While most come packed with a seasoning packet, and you can certainly use it, I prefer to use my own combination of simple seasonings.
You start this by covering the beef with water and bringing it to just below a boil. When you do that, a scum will form on the surface. This is just proteins, fats, and impurities from the meat, called albumin. Scoop it out and discard it. If you leave it in, you will have a cloudy broth and the impurities leave a dull flavor that is unpleasant. If you boil the stock, the impurities will be mixed back into the stock. It is worth the few minutes of effort to skim the top. I use a slotted spoon and rinse it as needed.
I am including several recipes so you can make corned beef in a way that pleases you and your family. You can stay with the traditional method – wonderful in its simplicity. You can serve it with sauces to spice it up, or you can coat it with a dry rub and cook to create a crust.
I like to start cooking with just water and seasonings, and then add in some beer and chicken stock to finish braising. The beer adds depth and the stock smoothes the flavors. In addition, I add a glaze toward the end to finish it off. One of the tricks I learned was that if you weight the meat down, it compacts which makes it much easier to cut and it is less stringy. If you are going to use the leftovers to make hash, the compacted meat is much easier to cut into small cubes.
Boiled cabbage can be bland and mushy, so I like to saute mine instead. Adding some onions and a little garlic spices it up. You can use some herbs if you like too. Thyme, oregano, or marjoram would be complementary. You can cook it as much or as little as you like. Leave it a little crunchy for a nice change of texture.
There is a recipe for a tangy horseradish sauce that is wonderful on the side, a mustard, honey, and horseradish blend, or you can combine several mustards for your own special blend. Any of these would also be great on sandwiches the next day.
Bobby Flay put together a fantastic recipe that combines his love of well-seasoned food and the traditional ingredients. You start the corned beef the same way, by braising it. Then coat it with a dry rub and sear it in a pan, creating a wonderful crust. This makes the corned beef taste a bit more like pastrami which I adore. If you want to try it, I think you will love it as much as I do.
Bobby also offers his corned beef with cabbage that has roasted shallots and bacon added. These both are amazing and really make the cabbage special. Then as an extra special side, he also makes little toasts out of rye bread and smears them with bleu cheese. This adds a terrific crunch and complementary nutty, tangy flavor.
No matter how you make your corned beef this year, I know you will enjoy serving the traditional meal. May you all be blessed with a touch of Irish Diplomacy … That is the ability to tell a man to go to hell so that he will look forward to the journey, LOL!!
- 5 lb corned brisket of beef (allow about 1 lb per person)
- 6 whole peppercorns or packaged pickling spices
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 whole allspice berries, optional
- 1 bottle dark beer, optional
- 3 carrots, peeled and quartered
- 3 onions, peeled and quartered, studded with 6 whole cloves
- 1 medium-sized green cabbage, cut in 6 or more thick wedges
- 4 to 6 tbsp melted butter, or as desired
- Boiled potatoes, cooked separately and tossed with butter and minced parsley
- Place the corned beef in a large Dutch oven and add water to cover. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, skimming the top. Add the peppercorns or mixed pickling spices (in supermarkets, these often come packaged with the corned beef), bay leaves, and allspice (if using). Reduce heat and simmer 5 hours or until fork tender, skimming the surface occasionally. After the first 2 hours add the beer if using. During the last hour, add the carrots and onions and cover again. During the last 30 minutes, add the cabbage.
- You can also bake this in the oven at 325°F for about 6 hours (1 hour per lb). Bring to a boil, cover, and place in the preheated oven. Add the vegetables as directed above or cook separately.
- Remove meat from liquid and set on a cutting board to rest for at least 20 minutes, tented with foil to help keep it warm. Slice beef against the grain. Transfer meat and vegetables to a platter and brush the vegetables with the melted butter. Serve with boiled parsley potatoes, cooked separately.
- Alternate Method: After cooking for 2 hours at 300°F, add 2 cans of chicken stock and cook for another 3 hours. Remove beef from the pot and set on a sheet of foil. Brush with the glaze (recipe below) or slather with your choice of mustard, and wrap with the foil. Place foil-wrapped meat on a baking sheet to catch any leaks.
- Wrap 2 bricks with foil and set on top of the meat. This compresses the meat and makes it much easier to carve. Return meat to the oven and cook while the vegetables cook in the braising broth. Remove meat from oven, let rest, and slice thinly across the grain.
- Glaze: combine 3/4 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup apple juice, 1/4 cup bourbon, and 3 tbsp grainy mustard. Simmer over low heat and reduce to a glaze.
- Yield: 6 servings, with meat leftover for additional meals
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp yellow mustard
- 1 tsp horseradish (or more to taste)
- 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 3 tbsp vinegar
- 3 tbsp water, white wine, or dry vermouth
- Corned Beef
- 3 lbs corned beef (in package)
- 10 whole cloves
- Sautéed Cabbage
- Olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 large head of cabbage, cut into 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch wide slices
- To make the Sauce: Melt butter, add remaining ingredients, and mix thoroughly. Cook over medium heat until well blended. Set aside.
- To make the Corned Beef: Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Depending on the saltiness of your corned beef, you may need to boil it once or twice to remove some of the salt. Put it in a pot and cover with water; bring to a boil then discard the water. Refill with water and bring to a boil; discard the water again. It is now ready to bake as directed below.
- Drain the corned beef from the package and discard the spice packet. Lay corned beef, fat side up, on a large piece of wide, heavy-duty aluminum foil. Insert the cloves into the top of the slab of corned beef, evenly spaced. Pour half the sauce over the top and seal the package, leaving room at the top for steam. Place in a shallow baking dish and bake for 2 hours or until fork tender.
- Open the foil wrapping, spread a little more sauce over the top of the corned beef, and broil it for 2 to 3 minutes, until the top is bubbly and lightly browned. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then place on cutting board and cut on the diagonal, across the grain of the meat, into 1/2-inch thick slices. Serve immediately with sautéed cabbage and boiled new potatoes. Pass extra sauce or braising liquid at the table if desired.
- To make the Sautéed Cabbage: Heat 2 tbsp olive oil (enough to coat the pan well) on medium high heat in a large, wide pot, Dutch oven, or large, high-sided sauté pan, preferably without nonstick coating. Add chopped onions, cook for a couple of minutes, and then add garlic.
- Add a 1/3 of the sliced cabbage to the pan. Sprinkle with a little salt and stir to coat with oil and mix with onions. Spread the cabbage evenly over the bottom of the pan and do not stir until it starts to brown. If the heat is high enough, this should happen quickly. The trick is to have the burner hot enough to easily brown the cabbage, but not so hot that it easily burns. When the bottom of the cabbage is nicely browned, use a metal spatula to lift it up and flip it, scraping the browned bits as you go. Do not use metal utensils on a nonstick pan!
- Once the cabbage in the pan has browned on a couple of flips, add another 1/3 of the cabbage to the pan. Mix well, then spread out the cabbage and repeat. You may need to add a bit more olive oil to the pan to help with the browning, and to keep the cabbage from sticking too much to the pan. Once this batch has cooked down a bit and browned, add the remaining 1/3 of the cabbage and repeat. Can be made ahead and reheated.
- Corned Beef
- 1 (3 to 4 lb) corned beef brisket, in brine
- 16 cups cold water
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- 4 whole allspice berries
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 small head green cabbage (about 2 lb), cut into 8 thick wedges
- Spice Rub for Meat
- 3 tbsp dry mustard
- 1-1/2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tbsp black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp sea salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp celery seed
- Mustard Sauce
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp prepared horseradish
- Cabbage and Finishing Touches
- Canola oil
- 1 lb bacon, sliced into about 1/2-inch thick rectangles
- Chervil or parsley, for garnish
- Boiled small potatoes, tossed with butter and minced parsley
- Preheat oven to 300°F.
- To Cook Corned Beef: Place brined beef in a colander in the sink and rinse well under cold running water.
- Place beef in a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, add water, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice, and cloves. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and skim off scum that rises to the surface. Cover and transfer pot to the oven and braise about 4 hours or until fork tender.
- Remove meat from pot and transfer to a cutting board. Cover with foil to rest.
- Prepare Cabbage & Potatoes: Add cabbage to the cooking liquid and bring to a boil on the stove. Lower the heat and simmer until cabbage is nearly tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the pot and drain. Use in the following recipe.
- In a separate pot of salted water, boil the potatoes at the same time as the cabbage. When tender, toss them with butter and minced fresh parsley. Serve alongside the beef and cabbage.
- Meanwhile, combine the Mustard Sauce ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.
- To Finish Corned Beef: Combine all the Spice Rub ingredients; rub beef with spice mixture. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels and reserve for the cabbage.
- Sear the beef in the bacon fat until a crust forms, turn over and continue cooking until golden brown. Remove, let rest and thinly slice to serve. Serve beef with mustard sauce on side and garnish with chervil or parsley.
- Yield: about 5 to 6 servings
- 1 head cooked cabbage (from above)
- 8 whole shallots
- Canola oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp butter
- Rye bread, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
- 4 oz good quality blue cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place shallots in a nonstick skillet, toss with a few tablespoons of oil, the sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelized. Add butter to pan; melt. Add cabbage to the pan and heat through. Transfer to a platter, top with reserved bacon.
- Place bread on baking sheet. Toast in oven until crisp on both sides. Top with some of the blue cheese and bake until slightly melted.
- Serve cheese toasts with spiced rubbed corned beef, cabbage, and parsley potatoes.
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp prepared horseradish (with liquid)
- 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, horseradish, lemon zest, and salt. Season generously with pepper to taste.
- Refrigerate the horseradish sauce for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- Yield: about 1-3/4 cups