St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef Dinner
I’m about as Irish as a Jewish girl can be. Yet a St. Patrick’s Eve corned beef dinner was a tradition that my mother began and that I have maintained for years. If you do a little historical research you will find that the traditional (American) St Patrick’s dinner is not really an “Irish” as in “Ireland” tradition. To make it even more complicated the Irish usually had their brisket as a Christmas treat.
The way we celebrate the holiday likely began with the new Irish immigrants that came to America. Somewhere in Irish history a corned beef was a delicacy that few Irish could afford. But here in America, beef was more plentiful so the land of milk and honey and beef was the start of a tradition many of us love.
Somehow this also links to Jewish families who love a good corned beef sandwich and finally to the beloved Reuben sandwich of Jewish rye, Irish corned beef, German sauerkraut and why not “Swiss” cheese frequently slathered with “Russian Dressing” or a good “French” Dijon mustard then grilled until toasty and succulent.
As my father used to say: “America, America” with an intonation that meant that anything could happen here and it actually did. Our country is a melting pot at its best and Americans have a mixed culinary heritage from all over the world. Our cuisine does not have a uniform consistency. It blends and intertwines until it is born anew.
In restaurants “fusion” is still very trendy. So why not start with the Irish immigrant, and the New England root cellar to create an American St Patrick’s Day Corned Beef Dinner.
A word about choosing your brisket: Now that we have trained our butchers to buy and trim lean we are beginning to realize what we gave up. Especially with a cut like brisket, it is important to have some good top fat to melt and baste the meat and it is even more important to look for meat that is lightly, but thoroughly veined with fat to yield some tenderness.
We are also suggesting that you soak your brisket in cool water for about an hour to rinse away any excess salt that comes from the brining process. Keep the spices that come with your brisket. They will provide good flavor to the meat and the vegetables.
Long, slow cooking is also important. So for our family tradition we will be roasting the meat in a covered roasting pan with very little water for approximately one hour per pound. In that last hour you add your vegetables and roast them in the spicy broth that the meat has provided. For a nice green color and appealing texture it is good to open pot boil the cabbage wedges in salted water with a spoonful of the spicy meat juices for added flavor.
This oven braising technique is more likely to retain some of the salt from the curing process. So we suggest you place the brisket in a deep pan and cover it with cold water to rinse away any excess salt. Soak for 30 minutes to an hour. Keep as much of the pickling spices as you can or add some fresh pickling spice to the meat before you cook it.
- 1 31/2 to 4 pound corned beef brisket
- 1 to 2 teaspoons pickling spice (Optional)
- 1 pound small potatoes
- 1 pound small onions
- 1 pound slender carrots
- 1 pound parsnips
- 1 pound small beets
- 1 medium head of cabbage
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Place the meat fat side up in a large covered roasting pan.
- Add 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water and pickling spice as desired.
- Cover the roaster and bake the meat for one hour per pound or until tender.
- Scrub the potatoes.
- Peel and trim the onions, then cut a 1/2 inch deep ‘X’ in the root end.
- Peel the carrots and parsnips. Cut them into 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices.
- Wash the beets and leave 2 inches of stem attached.
- Cut the cabbage into 6-8 wedges.
- Trim most of the core away leaving just enough of it to hold the wedges together.
- All vegetables except beets and cabbage can be added to the roasting pan with corned beef during the last hour of cooking.
- The beets should be steamed separately in 1/2-inch of salted water until tender then peeled and tossed with butter.
- Boil cabbage in water with a bit of the spicy roasted meat liquid and/or pickling spices.
- Slice the beef into 1/4-inch slices against the grain to serve arranged with a variety of vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Louise Hasson is owner and lead chef of Bon Vivant School of Cooking. Seattle’s premier cooking school for beginning and experienced chefs. At Bon Vivant Louise and her team of chefs strive to teach culinary creativity, not just recipes, in a relaxed home environment. Visit Bon Vivant on Facebook and get more recipes on her Blog.