Martha Stewart Living (March 2009)
When you think of St. Patrick's Day food, there's only one dish that really comes to mind: corned beef and cabbage. It's delicious and traditional -- even if it ain't exactly Irish.
This year, as promised, we brined our own brisket for two weeks. As it happens, Zach's mom B. (of Fajita Sweet Potato and Omelet Sous Vide fame, among other things) was in town, so we decided to have a bunch of people over for an early St. Paddy's Day feast.
For us, this was sort of a chance to redeem our Irish-American Cuisine badges after last year's St. Patrick's Day meal. Our dinner last year wasn't terrible, but we had left out one very important ingredient: pink curing salt. It only takes a spoonful, but the curing salt gives the brisket that signature pinkish hue and a wonderfully intense brininess.
This might sound like a funny thing to say, but aside from the two weeks it takes to brine your own corned beef, this recipe is a snap. Making the brine is super easy, and then you just throw the beef in there and let it sit for two weeks. When you're ready to cook it, you just take the brisket out of the brine, rinse it off, and simmer it for three and a half hours. That's it!
The vegetables are a cinch, too. You essentially just boil the potatoes and the cabbage in the leftover liquid you cook the beef in, while the brisket is resting. (You need to steam the more tender vegetables, like carrots and turnips, separately, or they'll turn to mush.)
The verdict? Everyone loved it! We placed a heaping platter of the corned beef and vegetables in the middle of the table, and everyone dug in. The beef was perfectly tender and juicy, with a great balance of aromatic spices from the brine and the salt. The vegetables were nice, too -- plump little morsels that took on a lot of the great flavors of the beef. Dollops of the mustard and the horseradish cream added a double-whammy zing to the whole thing.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether corned beef and cabbage is really Irish or not. It's about gathering close friends and relatives on a cold spring night, passing a plate of warm, comforting food, and sharing stories.
It doesn't get any better than that.
FOR THE BRINE
* 2 quarts water
* 1 cup coarse salt
* 1 tablespoon pink curing salt
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
* 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, crushed
* 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
* 1 cinnamon stick, crushed
* 4 dried bay leaves, crushed
* 8 whole cloves
FOR THE CORNED BEEF
* 5 pounds flat-cut beef brisket
* 1 medium onion, halved
* 1 medium celery stalk, halved
* 1 medium carrot, peeled, halved
* 1 pound baby turnips, peeled, trimmed
* 1 pound baby carrots, peeled, trimmed
* 1 medium head cabbage, cut into 8 wedges
* 1 pound small red potatoes
* Dijon mustard, for serving
1. Make the brine: Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add salts, sugar, and spices; remove from heat, and stir until salts and sugar dissolve. Let cool.
2. Make the corned beef: Place brisket in a nonreactive container just large enough to hold it. Pour cooled brine over meat. Place 2 small plates on top to keep meat submerged; cover, and refrigerate for 2 weeks.
3. Rinse brisket; discard brine. Place in a large pot. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add onion, celery, and halved carrot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until very tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
4. Set a steamer in a large saucepan. Add enough water to reach the bottom, and bring to a boil. Add turnips. Reduce heat, cover, and steam until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with baby carrots, steaming 10 to 12 minutes. Add to turnips.
5. Transfer corned beef to a cutting board. Tent with foil, and let rest for 30 minutes. Discard remaining solids from broth, then bring to a boil. Add cabbage and potatoes, and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Add turnips and carrots, and cook until warmed through. Transfer vegetables to a platter; reserve broth.
6. Trim excess fat from beef. Slice thinly against grain, and transfer to platter. Serve with broth and mustard.