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Al on Corn Beef & Cabbage

Post: 4318.1

Subject: Re: Three pounds of meat


It sounds to me like you have gone past pastrami and right on to the next step in provision preservation: Corning.

In the Old Days, they preserved meat by rubbing with corn sized (corn of what, corn of barley - that kind of corn) grains of salt. That's why it's called corned beef. Nowadays it's done in a brine, but no one would buy "brined beef."

Anyway: REAL corned beef is so salty it'll suck the moisture out of your tongue. Pappa used to make it in the cellar in a 5 gallon stoneware crock, 2 or 3 briskets at a time, from a recipe he learned in his youth, working in a meat market.

That left Mamma trying to find ways to use 2 or 3 corned beef briskets at a time.

My personal favorite was simple, and moderately fire-and-forget.

Corned beef and cabbage.

So: Put the corned beef into a pot large enough for it to lay flat on the botton and cover it (and maybe an inch or so deeper) with cool (cold tap water temperature) water. Turn the heat on full bore and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. It should foam up four year old chewing on an alka-seltzer. This is the beef's way of issuing the corning juices an eviction notice.

Next, dump that water off and replace it with clear water. Throw in a couple of bay leaves, a teaspoon of black peppercorns (do not Not NOT crack, crush or grind!), and a teaspoon full of mustard seeds (again, undamaged) and (if you feel like it: I always feel like it) two to four cloves of garlic, peeled and grinched (half way between ground and crushed - lay thm on the cutting board, lay the knife atop them and push down solidly untill you hear them scream for help). If you are sure you will never want to take the garlic out (I never do) just go ahead and crush and mince them. (I usually use 6 to 8, but - hey - I'm one of THOSE.)

DO not Not NOT add SALT!! The corned beef will (should) still have plenty of that to share.

Bring the whole thing to a boil, then put the cover on and turn down the hear and simmer for about an hour per pound (fire and forget).

As you come up on the last 40 minutes of cooking, peel some root vegetables (carrots, onions and potatoes, for sure, and maybe some turnips and parsnips: Get creative) cut into biggish chunks of about the same size and (important detail follows) THICKNESS (food cooks across its smallest thickness, and if you want everything to be more or less the same amount of cooked, if you want everything to be more or less the same amount of THICKNESS)!

Trick with the onions: get them about medium-small to medium size, peel 'em, and cut an "X" or a "*" in the top, about a third of the way down - this'll help them cook through and make them pretty, coming out of the pot.

Chuck the whole lot into the pot and give a stir. If you have veggies still sticking up out of the 'bree' (boiling liquid), add something transparent that has some flavor: Beef stock or broth, vegetable broth, a big slosh or red wine: Be creative and low-salted. Just don't use water. It's boring.

NOW is the time to taste the bree. It should be a TINY LITTLE BIT TOO salty for your tastes. If it isn't, add a pinch or two of salt and stir. Taste again. Remember people saying, "Salt to taste?" Well - salt just a bit BEYOND taste.

If it's TOOO salty, cut up a few more potatoes - those suckers will... uhhh... suck salt out of the liquid.

Recover, return to a boil, reduce temperature and simmer for another 20 minutes (the roots should be fork tender).

Get three or four (six if you have a lot of people coming over - feed 'em up on the veggies) young, small heads of cabbage (Why? You're going to leave the core IN!!). When you're shopping for them, give them a gentle squeeze. They should be as solid as a shot-put. A little give is ok, but any mushiness will do in this recipe.

Peel off the ugly stuff outside and cut off the dirty part of the root so all you have left is food-quality cabbage. Cut that sucker like you would an apple - quarters for coring. DO NOT core. Cut the halves into halves (eighths now, each piece a bunch of leaves depending from a slice of core). If you're serving lots of people, go to sixteenths. If the Seventh Army is dropping by, go to two hundred fifty-sixths. You get the idea.

NOW HERE'S THE UNORTHODOX TRICK: take the beef and rooty bits out of the pot and leave the bree! Turn up the heat to a fast boil, throw in a big pinch of caraway seeds and chuck in the cabbage.

Remember the cabbage episode: Lots of bree for the cabbage, and the caraway seeds will keep it from getting funky.

As soon as the cabbage cores are fork tender, you're ready.

This allows the meat to rest some, but you might want to dump the veggies back in, for two minutes, just to get'em fresh, warm and wet again.

Platter up the meat, and put the veggies in separate dishes for each type. Cut the brisket on a double-cross grain bias (across the grain, front to back, and at an angle top to bottom) and slice it thin.

Everybody gets a couple of slices of beef and a big plate full of root veggies and unfunky cabbage.

I'll get Mamma's horse radish sauce recipe tomorrow morning. It'll make you AND your corned beef smile.

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Last Edited: 08/27/2010