We celebrated St. Patrick's Day early this year so that I'd be able to post this early enough to inspire you to make it this March 17th (Tuesday).
Corned beef and cabbage, though it is not among the most aesthetically pleasing meals on the planet, is one of the tastiest and easiest to make. Next year I'll corn my own beef, this year I let the folks at Kroger do it for me.
First the history and background, then the recipe.
As it turns out, the Irish origins of this meal are questionable at best. It seems to have become popular among Irish immigrants looking for a less expensive alternative to bacon.
Where's the corn? That's what my son wanted to know when I served him a bowl yesterday.
The corned part actually refers to coarse kernels of salt, sometimes referred to as corns, used to prepare the beef. A beef brisket is covered in lots of salt and some water, along with some herbs and spices, then allowed to cure for 2 or 3 weeks. the salt preserves the meat, which isn't that important nowadays thanks to our Whirlpool, but was very important before the advent of refrigeration.
Here's how it's done:
Buy yourself a corned beef brisket
Open it and place it, along with the juices inside the package in a large pot.
They usually come with a little seasoning packet which generally includes mustard seeds, coriander seeds, allsoice, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves. Open this packet and throw the contents into the pot too.
Put in enough water to cover the beef, put it on the stove and bring it up to boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Let it simmer for three hours or more until it becomes tender enough to easily pierce it with a fork.
At this point, you could definitely eat it as it is, but I like to throw it in the oven while the veggies are cooking to get it a little crispy on the outside.
Pull the beef out of the liquid and throw it on a pan then into a 300 degree oven.
While it's in there, throw some peeled potatoes and carrots into the liquid and let them cook until they're soft (I actually like to strain the liquid first to get all the chunks out). Once they're cooked, pull them out (saving the liquid) and throw them onto the pan and into the oven with the beef to keep them warm while you cook the cabbage.
To cook the cabbage, cut a head into 4, 6, or 8 pieces, leaving the core intact (it will hold the leaves together while it cooks. Cook it in the same liquid until it's soft (about 10 minutes).
Pull everything out of the oven and slice the beef. Here's the important part: make sure to slice it ACROSS the grain. That means perpendicular to the lines running through the meat.
Throw everything onto a giant platter and serve it with some coarse ground mustard, some butter, and maybe some sour cream (that was a new addition this year thanks to Anne).
Seriously, it's so easy and an non-negotiable part of any serious St. Patty's Day celebration.
You can't go wrong as long as you cook it for a long time and slice it across the grain.