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Corned beef is your national dish, damnit!!

Today's recipes are: Corned Beef 101; and American Corned Beef Dinner
A photo of a green beer.

We generally spend St. Patrick’s Day (the 17th of March) in the USA. For those of you who have had the (mis)fortune of receiving group mails from me over the years, you would know this. But I am relying on the fact that most of my friends won’t remember this (alcohol, age……and no, I haven’t quite finished reading “How to make friends and influence people”). We were in the mid-west for the celebrations two years ago and our barman wore a green wig, our waitress had drunk far too much of the green beer (yes, all beer is green on this particular day) and brought us warm beer, cold corned beef & cabbage, and the Irish soup (should have been stew) after the pudding….. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

There does, however, seem to be a problem with my Irish friends and that is that they are unaware that:
a) Corned Beef and Cabbage is their national dish, and
b) they eat it everyday.
No matter how much I insist, they just won’t do the right thing and admit to this. 260 million Americans and I say you do, so JUST SAY YES!!! I love corned beef and cabbage, so seeing as we were not in the US on the day this year, I decided to have my own St. Paddy’s Day meal right here in France.

corned beef and bottles

The French, however, seem to be aware of the fact that just maybe, possibly, perhaps, Corned Beef is not as much in demand in Europe as it is in the USA, so “pas de corned beouf” in France. Oh, you can get the stuff in the tin alright, but this is absolutely not what I am talking about. Not that I won’t occasionally eat that too, but that is not the topic of today’s blog. Fresh corned beef or salt beef as Hugh calls it, is what I’m on about. Deeelicious. And when I say Hugh everybody knows who I’m talkin’ about, right? Hugh Faernly-Whittingstall, of course. River Cottage? We’ve watched that at least a hundred times – deeelightful.

So, what was I saying? He has the most fantastic recipe for making your own corned beef/salt beef, which I followed (almost) to the letter (very unusual for me) and which I can recommend whole-heartedly. After marinating it for a week, I cooked it the American way and it was deeevine. Hugh said to soak the meat in cold water for 24hours after the week of marinating, but I chose not to do this, and the broth was a bit too salty so I will definitely add this step next time.

This meal tastes great any day of the year, so no need to wait for next year to try it.

CORNED BEEF 101
(Serves 10 or more)

The recipe for the brine is from Hugh Faernley-Whittingstall’s book, ‘Meat’. The cabbage dinner is a typical American dish. Hugh also refers to corned beef as SALT BEEF. For beef, I used chuck and was very happy with the result. Cheaper cuts with a bit of fat rather than lean meats, work well in this dish.

2-3kg piece of beef, brisket or foreflank (I used chuck)
The Brine:
5 litres water
500g Demerara or light brown sugar (I used white sugar)
1,5kg coarse sea salt (I used a mix of coarse and table salt)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon juniper berries
5 cloves (I used about 10)
4 bay leaves
A sprig of thyme (I used a teaspoon of dried thyme)

1. Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan and stir well over a low heat until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Bring to a boil, allow to bubble for 1-2 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

2. Place your chosen piece of beef in a non-metallic container, such as a large Tupperware box or a clay crock. Cover the meat completely with the cold brine, weighting it down if necessary. Leave in a cool place (I put it in the fridge) for 5 -10 days. NOTE: Joints of less than 3kg should not be left in the brine for more than a week or they will become too pickled. I had my 2kg piece of chuck in for 7 days and it was perfect.

3. Before cooking, remove the beef from the brine and soak it in cold fresh water for 24 hours, changing the water at least one. You could make that 48 hours if it had the full 10-day immersion. NOTE: I decided to leave out the soaking step as I used large amounts of water to cook the corned beef, but it was quite salty so I definitely recommend soaking as per these instructions.

AMERICAN CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE DINNER
(Serves 10 or more)

My American friends pour off all the liquid once the meat is cooked and eat the meat and veggies with mustard. I keep the liquid and serve the meat and veggies in a soup bowl with some of the liquid and mustard on the side. Try it both ways and see what you think.

2-3 kg corned beef, bought or homemade
Water
10 potatoes, halved
10 carrots, halved
5 turnips
1 head of cabbage, quartered

1. Put the meat in a big pan and add enough water so that the beef is completely covered plus some. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 hour. Add the carrots, potatoes and turnips and simmer for another hour.

2. Add the cabbage and simmer for 30 minutes more or until the meat and vegetables are fork tender. Remember to slice the meat across the grain (although this does not affect the flavour!). Serve and enjoy!!

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Corned beef is your national dish, damnit!! | A Cook on the


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