Raise your hand if you are one of the millions of Americans who, three days after Thanksgiving, declare that this is gonna be the year that you eat more turkey. Gosh, it tastes great, has a 'heart healthy' fat content, whatever that is, and is pretty darned cheap to put on. We love turkey sandwiches in a deli, but, seldom prepare turkey at home.
Why is that?
My buddy Steve recently took me to a relatively new deli in downtown Portland. He raved about the authentic feel in an urban setting but, it was the pastrami that made my friend go berserkawitz.
"Quinnster, ya gotta check out these sandwiches here...see this one, it's the corned beef brisket with special sauce on fresh rye...and the pastrami comes with chopped liver, like a pate'..."
Watching the cooks pull smoked corned beef briskets up from the holding oven and hand carving each sandwich was like sitting at the dining room table during a painfully slow turkey carving on Thanksgiving. I had to swallow several times and make a conscious effort not to reach across the counter and grab a taste of the trim.
"Sweeney, the sonsofbitches use real smoked corned beef for their pastrami," I whispered, "not some nasty top round jacked up on liquid smoke."
"Quinnster, THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!" he shouted as he smacked me on the shoulder.
Corned beef; the lowly, wretchedly colored neon red meat that some of us obligingly prepare once per year only to make our house smell a little weird when followed by boiled cabbage and over-cooked potatoes.
No wonder we only attempt it on an annual basis: it looks funny, has a lot of fat and takes FOREVER to cook!
When it's done well, we LOVE it and can't wait to do it again. But, like a roast turkey, we never do. It's SO much work...the darned corned beef never seems to cook all the way...my cabbage and potatoes are reduced to mush by the time the beef has boiled to a close proximity of doneness. UUUHHHH! Just give me a couple of pints and let's call it good! Ta heck with corned beef!
Hear me out on this one: If given the right instruction and the proper tools (a killer recipe), anyone can succeed this coming week with a traditional St. Patrick's day dinner. This is 'THE YEAR' for all of us to kick some major booty in the kitchen when our American St. Paddy's dinner comes around.
Remember my 'Cooking with your Eyes Closed' segment...the whole schpeel on slow cooking overnight in a covered roasting pan with a bit of liquid...and it's called 'braising'? Well, those students that didn't do the homework can have an opportunity for a re-take.
We're going to prepare a Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner that will be the envy of every church dinner, any downtown pub, and those who dreamed of one day saying,
"Yes, I prepared Corned Beef in my sleep and my guests LOVED it!"
Corned Beef Brisket
First off, an inside tip: If you have a Costco, United Grocers/Cash and Carry, or some other quasi-wholesale food outlet, give them a call and ask for availability of corned beef brisket. Previously frozen is OK, these tougher cuts of meat don't suffer from freezing; they acutally help to tenderize the more stubborn cuts.
Corned beef brisket is running about $2.00/lb wholesale right now. Get a whole brisket and cut it into three pieces from short end to short end. This will allow ease of handling and slicing...how fun is that?!
OK, this is beyond EZ, but, I'm gonna tell you anyway...ready?
Take the brisket cut into three pieces and place into a covered pot that will fit into your oven. Empty the microscopic seasoning packet into the pot along with 2 bottles of your favorite ale. Not Buzz-wizer, not Sewers, but, a real friggin' ale made as local as possible, OK? splurg!
Now, place in a pre-heated, 275 oven when you go to bed (around 9 or 10 ). When you wake up at 6 or 7, your house will smell like a home with a fork tender corned beef brisket there to greet you in your bath robe (you in the robe, not the brisket...). Remove from the oven and using a big-ass spatula, gently extract the three pieces of meat from the pot. Place the meat on a cookie sheet and let cool at room temp for a half-hour. Then transfer to the fridge for a good chill. When ready to serve, slice the chilled meat on the short side, not the long side, into desired thickness. I like about a 1/8-1/4 inch slice. Place on a cookie sheet and into a 350 oven to re-heat; they get a little crispy and lose a little more fat. Dee-Lish!
Meat is done...was that easy or what?! Again, folks think you are the local version of Mario-friggin'-Batallia for 'creating' such a culinary triumph.
Cabbage and Preities
For the cabbage, use a standard head of green cabbage. Don't use red, Nappa or savoy; it ain't the same.
Get a pot of salted water on the boil. Take a head of cabbage with the stem side up and cut in half, right down the middle of the stem. DO NOT REMOVE THE CORE! Now, take each half and cut into 1/8th wedges, using the stem or core as the base of each wedge. The stem keep the leaves from falling off and turning the whole mess into cabbage goo. Drop the wedges into the salted water, which is simmering, and cook till fork tender. Remove and place in cold tap water to cool.
For the potatoes, use only red potatoes. If red potatoes are not available, then, well...just drink Guinness and have a wee dram of 'uisce beatha' the Gaelic beverage called 'water of life' which the brits call 'whiskey.'
Seriously, now cut your red pots (potatoes) into fork sized wedges or pieces and cook till fork tender in simmering, salted water. When done, strain and turn out onto a cookie sheet to cool. Place in fridge to chill. These can be reheated in the oven when ready to serve with a couple of lumps of salted butter and whatever else you like on top.
I wasn't going to do this for fear of becoming too involved but, I'll throw it out there for the adventuresome.
This is the Mustard Sauce from Hell. Ya ladle this delicately over the dish of corned beef, cabbage and spuds and well...people begin to weep uncontrollably.
I take no credit nor any blame as to what may transpire when guests partake of such a dish...
Make a roux with about half a cup of flour and half a stick of butter...low heat and create a 'wet sand' paste. To this add, cold chicken stock (broth if you hafta) of about 2 cups. Whisking all the while, add two more cups of chix stock as this thickens. Once the sauce comes to a light simmer, add 4 Tbs of whole grain mustard (Plochmans, Beaver brand, whatever) and adjust the salt with kosher salt.
This REALLY ties the whole thing together.
A man from Kerry once told me, "Quinn, 'dis is brilliant!"
Happy St. Paddy's to the only Irish guy I know named, 'Tony.'
Give this a go and hit me with some feedback...successes only.
Take care and remember:
"Food, Faith, Family and Friends...
the Best Things in Life Aren't Things."