Céad míle fáilte! (A hundred thousand welcomes!)
As I’ve said in my past two posts, we had plans for a craic-filled 😉 Saint Patrick’s Day this past weekend. Part of our celebration included corned beef and cabbage.
Here in the United States, corned beef and cabbage is a dish closely associated with the Irish in general and Saint Patrick’s Day in particular — although it is an easy meal that is tasty the year ’round. While I’ve grown up having this dish, this year, I decided to do something a bit different by cooking the corned beef in Guinness. 🙂 Why it never occurred to me before hand to cook the corned beef in Guinness, I do not know, but I am here to tell you that it made for an especially delicious meal — I do believe I’ll always cook it in Guinness from now on. 🙂
Why corned beef and cabbage? Well, according to things I’ve heard on the Food Network and gathered through Googling 😉 , in Ireland, the traditional dish is made with cabbage and a lean pork bacon (along the lines of what we would call Canadian bacon here in the States). Irish immigrants coming to the U.S. in the early 1900s found that their more traditional lean bacon was either unavailable or too expensive, and thus fell upon using corned beef as an affordable, readily available substitute. One speculation I read posited that, given the proximity of immigrant Irish and immigrant Jewish neighborhoods, the Irish were, of course, influenced by Jewish foods, hence the incorporation of corned beef in place of the lean bacon. (By the way, corned beef and cabbage is also often referred to here in the States as a New England dinner.) Regardless of its origins, it is a tasty and easy meal to put together.
Corned beef brisket is proof that yes, there is a difference in the cut. There are two cuts of corned beef that I’m aware of: point cut and flat cut. Point cut is less expensive, but is higher in calories and fat. Flat cut, on the other hand, has almost half the calories and almost 2/3 less fat than point cut. I paid $1 more per pound for my flat cut brisket than for the point cut, but to me, the additional expense is well worth it. Also, the flat cut will shrink less during cooking than the point cut, so we will end up with a greater volume of cooked meat than we would with the same weight of point cut. Slow-cooking the corned beef will help ensure its tenderness, even though the flat cut is leaner.
Corned beef and cabbage is incredibly easy to make — you just want to allow plenty of time for it to cook slowly so that it will be tender. Remember, should it get done more quickly than you anticipated, you can just keep it warm or reheat it when you’re ready to eat.
The fine folks at Grobbel’s, who made the corned beef brisket I purchased, have a recipe and even a demonstration video at their web site (http://www.grobbel.com) — and they offer all sorts of other recipes and information on corned beef and such, as well. In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, I served it along with some Irish soda bread.
Corned Beef and Cabbage (Number of servings depend upon size of the brisket, amount of vegetables, and the heartiness of the appetites you’re feeding. Leftover brisket makes great sandwiches, hash, and other such delights.)
- Corned beef brisket (suggest flat cut, which is much leaner)
- Mix of vegetables of choice: e.g., onion, carrot, celery, potato, turnip, parsnip, rutabaga
- Head of green cabbage
- 1 to 2 cans or bottles of Guinness
- Remove brisket from packaging, preserving the seasoning packet and wee bit of juices inside the package. Trim brisket of any visible excess fat.
- Place brisket in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven (I usually use my electric skillet) and add enough Guinness and water, if needed, to surround, if not cover, the brisket. Add in seasoning packet and any of the juices from the packaging (I usually carefully rinse the packaging and use that water as part of the liquid for the brisket).
- Bring lidquid to a boil or near boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
- Cover and simmer brisket, adding more water as necessary, for two to three hours.
- For the last hour or so of cooking, add in desired vegetables. I usually do some carrots (scraped and cut into fairly large pieces), onion (cut into quarters or eighths), and potatoes (I like to leave the skins on — more nutrition and flavor! — and so scrub them thoroughly, cut and/or prick them as necessary). Place cabbage slices on top. If you’re a cabbage novice, there’s a video here that demonstrates how to prepare a cabbage (it’s a red cabbage, not green, but the basics are the same): http://www.ehow.com/video_2261362_prepare-cook-cabbage.html
- Simmer until vegetables and roast are tender (about another hour or so).
- Once meat and vegetables are tender, remove to a platter and keep warm.
- If desired, thicken the remaining pan juices to make more of a gravy consistency, or leave pan juices as they are and serve au jus. Horseradish and/or spicy brown mustard also complement corned beef quite well. Refrigerate leftovers.
CrockPot It: I’ve not yet made it this way, but this method should be sound: Place carrots, onion, and potatoes in bottom of CrockPot. Top with corned beef brisket. Sprinkle in contents of seasoning packet. Pour in Guinness. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or high for 4 to 5 hours. During last hour or two of cooking, prepare cabbage and place on top of meat in CrockPot.
This smells so yummy, you’ll be dancing an Irish jig! 🙂