Corned beef and cabbage (Done Right) for the weekend, or any time
Corned beef, it should be noted, is not the Irish national dish, much to the surprise of many Americans.
Rather, it’s part of Irish-American culture, originating in the late 19th century when the Irish found it a cheaply available substitute for their familiar bacon and cabbage.
In this country, there had also been a popular New England boiled dinner, which was similar (the distinct difference from the Irish dish is the addition of beets).
Now, for those who unhappily remember the old days, when St. Patrick’s Day was approaching and corned beef and cabbage were served up in Irish bars after sitting on steam tables for a week, all has been changed, as W.B. Yeats would say, changed utterly.
• 3-4 pounds corned beef (choose thin or flat cut, which is leanest and has a better appearance. If the cuts are smaller, choose two of similar size)
• 1 onion, quartered
• 1 tablespoon peppercorns
• 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
• 1 teaspoon cloves
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 garlic cloves, whole
• 12 small red potatoes
• 6 carrots
• 1 medium head of cabbage
(preferably savoy cabbage)
• 1 14-ounce can of whole beets, no sugar added
Remove the fat “pad” on the side of beef with a sharp knife.
Put beef and next six ingredients in a large pot and cover with cold water.
Bring to boil, skim top, cover and simmer at low for up to three hours. Turn beef over midway, and test with fork toward end of cooking time. The meat should be very tender but not falling apart.
When done, remove to baking dish with a little liquid and keep in a warm oven.
Strain and degrease the broth.
Scrub the potatoes and leave whole; peel carrots and cut into chunks. Cook each separately in lightly salted water, then drain them, toss in butter and keep warm.
Cut cabbage in eight wedges and tie with butcher’s twine to keep their shape. Cook cabbage in strained broth until crisp tender (about 10 minutes). Drain and remove twine.
Warm the beets in their liquid, drain and keep warm.
While cabbage cooks, slice beef.
Arrange meat and vegetables on a large heated platter. Sprinkle vegetables with parsley.
Serve with cornichons and two kinds of Dijon mustard, smooth and country style. Red wine and cold beer are naturals. And the dessert possibilities are endless. But, like James Beard, I think a perfect choice is chocolate cake. If guilt sets in, cut thin slices.
I love to serve this meal on a weekend when we have guests, and always make enough for leftovers.
The next day, chop the meat and vegetables together (any proportions are fine). In a heavy pan, sauté a small chopped onion in some butter, add everything else and cook over medium heat until hot and crispy.
Then, make dents in the hash, drop in as many eggs as there are people waiting patiently and cover for about five minutes, until the whites are cooked through and the yolks are still runny.
Serve with really good rye bread, cold butter and ketchup — and of course, a Bloody Mary (with or without the vodka).