A few days ago I suddenly felt in the spirit of the wearing of the green, and I figured, since I have a brisket in my freezer, perhaps making corned beef and cabbage would be appropriate. Mind you, I’ve a distant past of wearing orange on the day, but my rebellious youth has mellowed out into a finer appreciation of things. (Although right now I am wearing blue jeans and a black t-shirt.)
I’ve never had trouble going Mexican for Cinque de Mayo, but I guess I drew the line at Irish food — what I considered to be overcooked vegetables (when present) along with boiled meats, and too many tasteless and starchy potatoes.
But I’ve always loved cabbage, and I wanted to try my hand at making corned beef. I reflected that I have indeed eaten great corned beef and cabbage, so I figured I’d start from scratch — ie, corning the beef myself.
So after a quick surf of the web, I learned: the brisket needs to sit in its brine for 5 to 10 days. That was going to put me post-St. Patrick’s day, so I figure I’ll reserve the brisket for some time when I want to corn it for Reuben sandwiches.
I considered going to a fairly reliable market and buying some previously corned beef, but I do try in my personal purchases to avoid feedlot beef, and besides I’m sure the stuff would have had more sugar (among other things) in the brine than I would have done.
Okay, corned beef and cabbage, minus the corn. One good thing: the cooking time is far less.
The below recipe is vegetarian but not vegan, as it contains butter.
Cabbage for St. Paddy’s Day (for two)
1/2-3/4 onion, chopped. (I used red, simply because the red one was telling me I had to eat it SOON, but yellow would be more traditional)
1 small potato (or large if you wish), scrubbed, bad spots picked out, but skin on, cut into rough chunks. (I used Yukon gold, because I like them, but red potatoes appear to be traditional)
About 20 ounces shredded cabbage (two bags from Trader Joe’s).
1.5 teaspoon butter
2-3 bay leaves
Peppercorns (in lieu of not being able to find my peppercorns — seems everyone is selling peppercorns inside of grinders these days, will have to rectify this! — I used a pickling spice mix that includes peppercorns)
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
A generous teaspoonful of sea salt (to make up for not having the corned beef in there)
Saute the onion in butter in a pan that can double as the thing you cook the rest of the meal in. (Why dirty extra pans?) Get the onion translucent, mildly browned. Remove onion to a small dish and reserve. Don’t worry about any residual butter.
Add potatoes and cover them with water, bring to a boil, along with peppercorns and bay leaf and salt.
Reduce heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes just begin to get soft.
Add everything else. Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. If you use larger chunks of cabbage that you chopped up yourself you may need to cook longer, but for packaged shredded, don’t do this.
Drain off excess liquids, remove bay leaf, and serve. I like a little Dijon-style mustard with my cabbage but that’s not necessary. Alternatively, you can garnish with fresh parsley (which I wish I had for the photo), or add some butter. I did, however, reserve the drained-off liquids for some as of yet unspecified dish. (Maybe I’ll simply just drink it??? It’s that good.)
If you do cook this with corned beef, you can reduce or eliminate the salt.
A couple of sites of interest:
http://www.food.com/recipe/n-y-c-corned-beef-and-cabbage-15846 — this one does a great job telling you how to shop for the right ingredients (perhaps a little overkill) but at the end discusses some of the symbology of the meal for those who are curious why one shouldn’t serve a pile of carrots on St. Paddy’s day (if one is Irish).
http://blog.junbelen.com/2010/03/15/how-to-make-corned-beef-brisket-nitrate-free-at-home/ — Apparently, a great recipe for corning beef brisket, for those who celebrate the day on a different calendar (or who are planning for next year). It is also nitrate-free. I will let you know when I actually try it.