Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Corned Beef and all the Fixings

Corned beef and cabbage is one of my absolute favorite meals. What we think of as Irish fare, corned beef and cabbage is a special feast for some people who only cook it for a St Patrick's Day dinner, but both St. Paddy's Day celebrations and corned beef, are actually American inventions, and also known as the traditional New England Boiled Dinner. A corned beef -- and the correct term is indeed "corned beef", not "corn beef" -- requires moist cooking, so it's perfect for the pressure cooker.

A corned beef is beef that has been pickled or cured. The word "corn" comes from an Old English usage that refers to a process that dry-cured meat in the days before refrigeration by packing them in coarse salt pellets, or “corns” of salt. "Corn" describes the size and shape of the coarse rock salt that is traditionally used for brining because it resembled a kernel of grain. If you live in the UK, this would be a Corned Silverside or "salt beef".

In the US a corned beef is typically a brisket, rump or round roast that is pickled or brined in salt water instead of dry salt cured, but the name "corned beef" remains. Usually a little packet of picking spices in included to give corned beef that distinctive flavor. If the spice packet is missing, you can find pre-mixed pickling spices in the spice aisle at most supermarkets. If you want a spicier taste, you can also make your own blend, and here's what I use:
Miss Vickie's Corned Beef Spice Blend

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon whole celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seed
2 bay leaves
pinch of dried crushed red pepper flakes
2 - 4 whole cloves
4 cloves crushed garlic
Tie all the spices in a square of cheese cloth, or put them in a large tea-ball for easy removal.

The brisket can be the Flat or Plank Cut that is leaner and has the distinctive grain we see in the slices. The Point Cut is a rounder, thicker cut with more fat in it and may be a little more expensive. Either cut will shrink by about a third during cooking. Be sure to add additional quantities if you plan to have leftover corned beef to use in recipes like stovies, bully beef stew, Ruben sandwiches, or hash.

Place the whole shrink-wrapped brisket in a large colander in the sink, then cut it open and remove the packaging. Rinse the meat thoroughly to remove the salty brine. The salt brine draws out the blood in the meat. Do not use the brine in the package to cook with.

Cooked in a regular pot, a corned beef takes about 4 hours, but in the pressure cooker, the cooking time is cut down to only about 50 minutes. Corned beef can be cooked a day in advance, refrigerated, and reheated by steaming in the pressure cooker for about 6-8 minutes. A corned beef is usually boiled to draw out the salt and fat, you can use water, but I like Guinness stout to add flavor... and because it sure goes good with a big corned beef sandwich the next day.

After the cooked beef is fully cooked and fork tender, I remove it from the pressure cooker and pour off most of the cooking broth. Using a large steamer basket to hold all the hard root vegetables, I put the cabbage wedges on top. This allows the vegetables to steam rather than boil in the greasy, salty cooking broth, and I know they will be tender, but not too soft or mushy from boiling or overcooking.

Some people like the taste of the vegetables cooking in the meat broth, and that's a matter of preference, so you can use either method. If this suits your palate, can ladle some of the broth into a bowl to be passed at the table and drizzle a few spoonfuls over the corned beef and veggies as desired.

You can stretch your food dollar by buying a smaller corned beef and adding a wider assortment of root vegetables such as rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes and onions. You also switch from cabbage to kale or Brussels sprouts. The leftovers can be mixed and mashed for new dishes like Dutch Whip, or make Irish Potato Farl, Colcannon, Irish Champ, or Kale Colcannon.


Corned Beef with all the Fixings


Step One: The Meat
A corned beef brisket with the spice packet, choose either a flat or point cut, allowing at least 1/3 lb, or a more generous 1/2 lb, per serving
3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
include the seasoning pkt, or a make a suitable spice blend
16 ounces of a stout or a similar full-flavored beer, or other combinations flavoring liquids such as beef broth or wine with water

Discard the packing brine and rinse the meat well, trimming off any visible fat. Lay the meat with the fattiest side up on the cooking rack in the bottom of the pressure cooker. Add spices and the flavoring liquid, and enough cold water to just cover the meat.

Lock the lid in place. Bring to 15psi over high heat, immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting to stabilize and maintain that pressure. Cook 50 minutes. Remove from heat and use the natural release method before opening the lid. A corned beef will have a natural pinkish-red color after cooking. This does not mean it isn't done. Nitrite is used in the curing process and this fixes the pigment in the meat and gives it the distinctive color. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and cover it with foil and a folded towel and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. This allows the meat to absorb its natural liquids, and it will continue to cook itself at the same time.

Test for doneness; the meat should be "fork-tender", meaning that a fork goes through it like its soft butter. If you can easily pull up a sliver of meat with a fork, it is a good indication of doneness. The internal temperature should be at least 160°F. If necessary, return to pressure for an additional 10 minutes and repeat the natural release, but do not overcook or your corned beef will be dry and stringy.

Step Two: The Vegetables

While the meat is resting, its time to cook the vegetables. Include at least 1lb of assorted vegetables per serving, increase as you like to add variety, stretch your budget, and for planned leftovers. Choose from a variety of root vegetables like carrots and parsnips, red or white boiling potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, boiling or yellow onions. Cut the pieces to a similar size -- I like hefty 2 inch chunks -- so they cook uniformly.

Use any variety of cabbage cut into thick 2-3 inch wedges, or use Kale or Brussels sprouts instead.

You can also add any type of cut hard winter squash, sweet potatoes, or any other veggies your family likes.

Discard all but 1 cup of the cooking broth. Place the cut root vegetables in a large steamer if you have one. Alternately, just put the cooking rack in the pressure cooker and add the cut root vegetables. If your pressure cooker is large enough, add the cabbage wedges on top of the cut root vegetables. Lock the lid in place. Bring to 15psi over high heat, immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting to stabilize and maintain that pressure. Cook 4 minutes. Remove from heat and use the quick or cold water release method before opening the lid. Using a slotted spoon, remove vegetables from pressure cooker and put the root vegetables and cabbage in separate serving bowls.

Alternatively, steam the cabbage separately using a second pressure cooker, or wait and cook them after the root vegetables are done. You can also steam cabbage wedges in a covered regular pot in about 15 minutes.

Step Three: Plating

To carve, slice the meat across the grain, otherwise it will be just about impossible to cut and shred in the process. Cut in thin slices and arrange them on a warmed platter.  Include the condiments of your choice, a grainy mustard, horseradish, or malt vinegar is usually a pretty good selection. I also add a loaf of good bakery rye bread, Irish Soda bread or dark pumpernickel to serve with the meal, and be sure to pick up enough sandwich makin's for the leftover corned beef.

Refrigerate leftover brisket and vegetables separately, and use within 3 to 4 days. The corned beef can be frozen for about 2 to 3 months.

8 comments:

Frances said...

My mother is from Ireland and I have 6 sons with their families that can't wait to come for corned beef & cabbage dinner about 3 or more times a year. I have used the pressure cooker before but following Miss Vickie's recipe we all agreed this was the best. Did all but the cabbage in the pressure cooker. The potato and carrots were perfect as was the corned beef. She has inspired me to check out more receipes.

Frances said...

My mother is from Ireland and I have 6 sons with their families that can't wait to come for corned beef & cabbage dinner about 3 or more times a year. I have used the pressure cooker before but following Miss Vickie's recipe we all agreed this was the best. Did all but the cabbage in the pressure cooker. The potato and carrots were perfect as was the corned beef. She has inspired me to check out more receipes.

Gertieanne said...

Hello,

I just bought your book and tried to subscribe and download some of your pdf files but it say it is full. Could you let me know what to do?

xHogHunter said...

This sounds like a great New England boiled dinner recipe. The only think missing is a mustard sauce.
I use a rue with butter and flour just to light brown the add some milk and mustard.

Cynthia said...

I'd love the recipe for Dutch Whip. It sounds great but I'm not sure which vegetables should be used. By the way, I cooked whole sweet potatoes in my pressure cooker today and I will NEVER cook them any other way ever again. I can't begin to tell you how fabulous they were. Even my sister who isn't all that crazy for them absolutely loved them.

Marsha said...

How is this recipe modified for an electric pressure cooker?

Miss Vickie said...

Marsha said... How is this recipe modified for an electric pressure cooker?

Regardless of the heat source, a pressure cooker is still a pressure cooker. You can adjust the quantity to stay within the 2/3 filled rule, but the timing remains the same. If you have questions about pressure cookery, please use my forum where we have more space for detailed discussions.

http://pressurecookerrecipes22484.yuku.com/

Anonymous said...

Hi, do you have to brown the corned beef prior to putting it into the pc.
I am new to PC and a little nervous. You say it is good to brown most meats, does this included corned lean beef. Thank you Libby

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