March 17, 2008

I Blame the Beer

I feel duped.

All these years, American culture has led me to believe that corned beef and cabbage are traditional Irish fare.

I recently discovered that, in fact, corned beef gained popularity in colonial America as an economic way to preserve meat. It has since become an American tradition to eat corned beef every year on March 17 and isn't really Irish at all. Not that I'm surprised, really, since it seems the majority of those I know who suck down green beer and sport kitschy pins with sayings like, "Kiss me, I'm Irish" aren't even Irish in the slightest. What's that saying? Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day.

While I have eaten many a plate of corned beef and boiled veggies in my time (and even had the occasional glass of green beer), I've never actually made the meal from scratch. I've always just had those heat-and-serve jobbies that show up in your local meat department each spring. In fact, up until a few weeks ago, I never gave much thought to how corned beef came about. When my March Bon Appetit arrived in my mailbox recently, I found a great article about and recipe for making your own corned beef at home. I was hooked. And the kicker? You brine the brisket for eight days in lager and then cook it in Guinness. The instructions are easy. I would say the hardest part about brining your own corned beef is finding roomin the fridge to keep it for eight days. Otherwise, anyone can do this. If you can pour a beer, you can make corned beef. The only modification I made was not using the Insta Cure. Without it, the meat turned a little gray. But, the recipe mentioned that would be the case if you don't use it, and personally I didn't see the need to consume nitrates unnecessarily.

Not wanting to be a total Irish poser, I paired the corned beef with Colcannon, a truly authentic Irish dish dominated by potatoes and cabbage.

Now, where did I put my "Kiss me, I'm Irish" pin ...

Just under the wire and actually a little late, this is my submission to Emiline's St. Patty's Day Pub Crawl.

Homemade Irish Corned Beef and Vegetables
from Bon Appetit

6 cups water
2 cups lager beer
1 1/2 cups coarse kosher salt
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Insta Cure no. 1* (optional)
1/4 cup pickling spices
1 6- to 8-pound flat-cut beef brisket, trimmed, with some fat remaining

Corned beef and vegetables:
1 12-ounce bottle Guinness stout or other stout or porter
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 whole allspice
1 dried chile de árbol,** broken in half
12 baby turnips, trimmed, or 3 medium turnips or rutabagas, peeled, quartered
8 unpeeled medium white-skinned or red-skinned potatoes (about 3 pounds)
6 medium carrots, peeled
4 medium onions, peeled, halved through root ends
2 medium parsnips, peeled, cut into 2-inch lengths
1 2-pound head of cabbage, quartered

For brine:
Pour 6 cups water and beer into large deep roasting pan. Add coarse salt; stir until dissolved. Add sugar; stir until dissolved. If desired, stir in Insta Cure No. 1. Mix in pickling spices. Pierce brisket all over with tip of small sharp knife. Submerge brisket in liquid, then top with heavy platter to weigh down. Cover and refrigerate 4 days.

Remove brisket from brine. Stir liquid to blend. Return brisket to brine; top with heavy platter. Cover; refrigerate 4 days. Remove brisket from brine. Rinse with cold running water. do ahead Can be made 2 days ahead. Wrap corned beef in plastic, cover with foil, and refrigerate.

For corned beef and vegetables:
Place corned beef in very large wide pot. Add stout and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Wrap cheesecloth around bay leaves, coriander seeds, allspice, and chile, enclosing completely, and tie with kitchen string to secure. Add spice bag to pot with beef; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until beef is tender, about 2 1/4 hours. Transfer beef to large baking sheet.

Add turnips and all remaining vegetables to liquid in pot; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently until all vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to baking sheet with beef. Return beef to pot and rewarm 5 minutes. Discard spice bag.

Cut beef against grain into 1/4-inch thick slices. Arrange beef and vegetables on platter. Serve with Horseradish Cream and Guinness Mustard.

*Insta Cure No. 1 is a mixture of sodium nitrate and salt that is used in cured and smoked sausages to prevent botulism. In this brine, its only purpose is to prevent the meat from turning gray, so you can certainly leave it out. You'll find Insta Cure No. 1 at

**A thin, red, very hot three-inch-long chile; sold at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Latin markets.

from Martha Stewart

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1 savoy cabbage, trimmed, pale-green leaves finely shredded (4 cups)
1 leek, pale-green and white parts only, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Coarse salt

  1. Preheat broiler. Peel and quarter potatoes, and place in a medium saucepan; add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to saucepan. Mash with a potato masher or pass through a ricer; cover pan to keep warm.

  2. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, combine cabbage, leek, milk, 2 tablespoons butter, and nutmeg; season with salt. Cover, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cabbage and leek is soft but not browned, about 15 minutes. Stir into potatoes.

  3. Spread mixture in an 8-inch square baking dish. Make a small well in the center, and place under the broiler until lightly browned on top, about 5 minutes.

  4. Remove from broiler. Place remaining 2 tablespoons butter in well. Serve immediately, spooning melted butter from well onto each serving, if desired.


Emiline said...

I agree with you on the nitrates.

I think this sounds delicious. It looks a lot better than the corned beef we served at work.
Great job!

Shayne said...

my friend made Colcannon about a year ago and I had it then for the first time and I loved it (must be the Irish in me, HA) and I have made it a gew times but my hubby is not a fan, must be the 100% Serbian in him.