Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day ~ Braised Corned Beef

 As you slide down the banister of life, 
may the splinters never point in the wrong direction.

~ An Irish Blessing *

Don't blame the Irish for boiled corned beef.

In Celtic Ireland, beef of any sort was a luxury. Cows were kept for milking until the British took over the countryside. The Anglo taste for beef changed up the diet, but not for the poor Irish peasant.

It wasn't until the potato famine forced our ancestors to America, where the salted meat was an inexpensive delicacy, that my family likely ate. Today on the Emerald Isle : that most "Irish" of dishes, corned beef- it is made more often for tourists than the natives. 

34.5 million Americans claim Irish descent in the United States- which is about the number of variations on the boiled one-pot dish which escaped  New England. 

My version turned my husband from a corned beef avoid-er to corned beef lover.  
Bay Laurel Tree grown by Monrovia

There are 3 secrets. The first is to make a bed of celery for the meat to rest on while it cooks. The second is to braise the corned brisket as slowly as your schedule allows. The Holy Grail is for the meat to be lifted to the serving plate when the meat thermometer stuck in its heart reads between 190-210°.   The third is to double glaze with spicy-sweet glaze of apricots and mustard.  Since you can't follow me around the kitchen, here are my notes: 

In a large heavy covered roasting pan, one with a tight sealing lid, make a bed of celery and onion for the meat to lie above the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the spice package over the top, throwing in an extra bay leaf or so from the garden. Slide the pan, lid on, into a slow oven.

When enough heat releases the aroma of  'eau de  Saint Patrick's Day' perfumes the kitchen -  surround the island of meat with red potatoes, quartered sweet onions and chunks of carrots. Put the lid on the meat and go away. Read some Irish poetry. Divine a poem. 

About an hour before serving, lift the lid, dumping wedges of cabbage on the very top of the vegetables.

Paint the top of the meat with a generous slurry of equal parts apricot jam and Dijon mustard- reserving half the mixture for the end.  Raise the oven temp to  a moderate 350°F and plop that lid down one last time. 
 Sur la Table carries first class   Staub roasters.

In about half an hour, the cabbage leaves will have wilted, signalling time to check on how deeply a fork stabs the other vegetables.  They can stay longer with the beef or come out with the cabbage. 

The meat needs to go in one more time to get rid of any palor.  Spread the rest of the sweet slurry on top. Turn the oven up to 400° for just 15 minutes longer- keeping an alert nose for anything headed towards becoming a burnt offering. 

What you want is a roast at that magic temperature mentioned back towards the beginning of this post. 190° F is when the connective tissues soften. Much past 210, and you are headed  from gourmet into the land of cardboard.

Tender, salty meat. Sweet Glaze. Creamy potatoes. Colorful vegetables. Corned beef done well is a ritual worth repeating more than just on Saint Patrick's Day

Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful.

* Selected from Irish Blessings are posted at food and wine.

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