How to Prepare Traditional Corned-Beef Brisket
I recently found out that while corned beef (salt-cured beef) is native to Ireland, it in fact isn't a huge tradition on St. Patrick's Day over there. It does however remain a traditional dish for St. Patrick's Day celebrations in America. Besides, it's absolutely delicious!
For all of you corned-beef virgins out there, you may be thinking what is corned beef? Or how on earth do I cook it? What do I serve it with? I'm here to give you a simple recipe that really isn't a recipe at all.
Simply pick up a pre-packaged "corned beef brisket" from your grocery store. It will be in the refrigerated butchered meats section (with the beef of course). There are a few things you need to keep in mind when buying a corned beef brisket. First, it's a bit expensive, so allow for it in your grocery budget. Also, it comes with a spice packet, so you don't need to buy a bunch of spices. Just make sure you have some garlic on hand...garlic salt, garlic cloves, whatever you have on hand or can afford. You need to keep in mind that you will have to trim off some fat before cooking, and the roast will cook down a little. The packaged ones usually come in medium and large quantities. For two people the medium size is fine. For a family of four or more, I'd get two medium ones. If you are having a huge party, you'll want a couple of the larger ones. And of course you want to have plenty leftovers for cold corned beef and reuben sandwiches. Just keep in mind that if you are cooking this for a large crowd, you will need a tall stock pot to cook them in. If you're just cooking it for your family, you can also cook it in a crock pot or slow simmer it over the stove in any large boiling pot with a lid.
Take the brisket out of the package and trim off any large chunks of fat. Leave a thin layer of the fat on for more flavor. Place the corned beef in a large pot of water along with the spice packet. And yes, you need to open the packet! (Someone once asked me if she could just throw the packet in the water without opening it.) I like to add a dash of garlic salt or a few garlic cloves too, but that is totally optional.
Bring the water to a boil then reduce and simmer for several hours. Low and slow and the longer the better.
Of course you have to serve it with cabbage. Don't be intimidated if you've never served it before. Chances are you haven't unless you are the strange sort who loves cabbage (like me). Just chop it up and simmer it for a few minutes until it's tender. I like to boil mine separate from the brisket so that it's totally plain so people can have it however they want. Some people like it with salt and pepper, paprika, or lemon, or nothing at all.
The side veggies on the other hand, I love to cook those with the brisket for added flavor. Chop up some carrots and potatoes (skin-on) and toss them into the pot when the brisket is done or just about done. After a few hours on the stove, test it with a fork. When it's fork tender, cut off a bite and try it. If it take zero effort to chew the meat, you know it's ready.
At that point it can stay in the warm water or you can take it out if you need to make more room for the veggies. Use tongs to get the brisket out of the water and slice it into strips when you are ready to serve it.
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