More Kitchen Experiments

I killed my sleep cycle again- I can’t even blame Daylight Savings for this one- so I’m stumbling around like a zombie.

So I’m going to talk about food. Why not?

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, so there will be corned beef and cabbage for dinner. Sort of. Did you really expect me to make a standard boiled dinner, without winging some part of the recipe?

I used to hate corned beef when I was a kid. I’d eat the potatoes and onions, and carrots if there were any, and leave the meat and the cabbage. The cabbage was usually overdone and slightly slimy, and the meat was full of icky connective tissue and fat that had a weird mouth-feel. If I was feeling adventurous, I might pick at the individual muscle fibers. I was a weird kid. Not usually a ‘picky eater’, in the typical sense, but there were some things I just plain hated. Fortunately, my mother had been forced to eat really awful stuff by her parents, and refused to repeat that fight with her kids. We had to ‘just try it’- eat one or two bites- and ‘if you don’t like it, eat around it’ was a common phrase at the dinner table

And it paid off, because I’ll try most foods once, and I like to experiment in the kitchen. I’ve also learned a better way to prepare St. Patrick’s Day dinner.

Corned beef is a beef brisket, preserved in salt (and some other spices, but mostly salt). This was a traditional method of keeping a tough cut of meat from going bad, in the days before refrigeration. So, poor people food. The traditional vegetables, cabbage, onions, potatoes, and carrots, are ubiquitous in Northern European cooking, and last for a long time in a root cellar. Again, poor people food. And boiling your food is one of the most efficient ways to cook it, in terms of not wasting fuel and not having to spend too much time tending the meal.

Modern technology has removed the need for most of these work-arounds. We have fridges and ovens, and can acquire fresh vegetables all year. So it’s easy to change up corned beef and cabbage into something rather more interesting. Here’s what I’ll be doing in the kitchen tomorrow:

Rinse the corned beef well, to remove some of the salt (some people boil it in one or two changes of water). Place the meat, fat side up, in a Dutch oven, and put it in the oven on the lowest possible setting, about 200 degrees F, for as long as possible. I plan for 6-8 hours. Check it occasionally starting around the 4 hour mark.

The vegetables don’t take nearly that long. I’ll take Brussels sprouts- a close relative of cabbage- carrots, pearl onions, and cut up potatoes, drizzle them with a little oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them in the oven until they look like something I want to eat (the amount of time depends on how large the pieces are).

Since veggies usually roast better at a higher temperature, I may have to do some finagling to get the meat out of the hot oven and the vegetables into it at the right time. I haven’t quite decided how I’m going to do that, but fortunately, corned beef is just as tasty at room temperature as it is straight out of the oven.

I’ve cooked all of these items separately, using the above methods, but never as one coherent meal. So, we’ll see how it turns out.

We’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, so, how do you make corned beef and cabbage?

11 comments

  1. First, I contemplate how many years it takes for blood fued to die into tradition.
    Second, I make sure I am wearing no green, and don the orange ribbon.

    Third, usually I simmer it, because I actually like the flavour. Dropping the diced potatoes in the water causes the water to become less salty. I add in neeps to my tatties so I can make tatties and neeps… sorry, I add in swedes to my potatoes… wait, I add in rutabagas to my potatoes. Yes. That. I add in rutabagas with my potatoes so I can make tatties and neeps with leftovers. (so tasty!)

    Also, rough-chopped onions, though sometimes I leave them whole if I’m simmering longer. Carrots and onions need to be timed, or they become mush. A little garlic, because everything is improved with garlic! And a bay leaf, because the broken up bits of bay in the seasoning packet usually aren’t enough. Sometimes a few peppercorns to spice things up.

    Last, I cut the cabbage in wedges and let it simmer alongside until the perfect consistency, full of that lovely flavour from the water. Worst comes to worst, I blanch the cabbage in the water after pulling the rest out…

    Or I put it all in the crockpot a day ahead, and save labour.

    1. My Mom used to put a wedge of cabbage in a cheese cloth bag in with the corned beef, carrots, onions, etc. A little while (an undefined time specified according to her cook’s instinct) before mealtime, she would pull out the bag, and put in the rest of the head of cabbage. Everything was permeated with that lovely cabbage taste, and the cabbage we were eating still had some texture.

  2. One of our poker group treated us to smoked brisket last night. Smoked for 14 hours with fruitwood chips, allowed to rest over night, then warmed back up in a 200 degree oven. Some spice rub was used, but I didn’t catch what all was in it. An assortment of BBQ sauces provided on the side. My choice was just a bit of Sweet Baby Ray. Not much of anything on the side other than sweet Hawaiian dinner rolls.
    He hosts our game once a month and always has something of the sort there to make us happy and ignore his winning our money. It’s a nickel/dime game so still and all a good feed and cheap entertainment.

  3. I boil the corned beef for an hour, change the water (and add more corning spices. Keep the flavor, lose some of the salt). After about two hours or so, I add the cabbage, carrots, a plop of garlic, and the potatoes. I like mushy cabbage for this one, so I “ignore until done,” occasionally poking things to test for done-ness and to make sure there’s enough water.

  4. To this day, I cannot stand corned beef. I did eventually figure out that it is coriander that offends my taste buds for some reason – which means there is no way to prepare it for me.

    The family loves it, though, so there’s one in the crock pot right now.

      1. I got “stewed gym socks”, but apparently I have that gene too.

        Two condiments are particular problems for me – more than the merest whiff of onion or oregano, and they overpower everything else until that’s all I can taste. Onion pizza or oregano spaghetti taste about as bad as you’d expect.

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