Monday, March 8, 2010

6. Corned Beef and Cabbage - (G)

Food cravings can be caused by nutritional needs, hormonal changes or stress. For some reason, I also have seasonal or holiday food cravings! As St. Patrick's Day approaches, I crave corned beef and cabbage!

Most grocery stores sell packaged corned beef. While the meat is not inexpensive be cautious about the cut you purchase - it can be loaded with layers of fat. Packages of corned beef usually includes a small packet of seasoning; the cooking directions will be printed on the outside of the packaging. Use the seasoning - ditch the directions - they LIE!

My experience: As a newlywed, I cooked my first corned beef dinner and mistakenly trusted and followed the package directions.  The corned beef dinner fragrances filled the kitchen and my husband and I drooled with the thought of that first bite.

The timer rang and as I lifted the pot lid my mouth dropped open. Where had the large, beautiful piece of meat gone and why had this shrunken thing taken its place? I speared the meat with a fork a realized it was far from tender. In fact, it was tough and inedible!

We did not have corned beef for our first St. Patrick's Day dinner. (See note* below).

Here is what I  know:

First - begin to cook the corned beef 4-5 hours prior to the serving time. It needs to be fork tender and should start to fall apart.

Second - do not cook most of the vegetables in the same water with the meat and seasonings as is suggested by many recipes. Not only will the vegetables become coated with melted fat from the meat, but the seasoning will mask the vegetable flavors.

Third -  it is necessary to purchase twice as much meat as usual for a dinner. When cooked, the high fat content of corned beef causes major shrinkage.  One average-sized package of corned beef will probably produce three or four modest-sized servings with little or no meat left over for those next-day Ruben sandwiches.

*(My first corned beef dinner was not a total waste. I returned the beef to the pot the next day and cooked it until it was fork-tender - a day late, but lesson well-learned).

Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner

1 pkg corned beef brisket or round (if you can find it)
1 head of cabbage
4-5 Carrots, cleaned and cut into chunks
4-5 Red potatoes, washed and cut into chunks
3 Sweet Onions, cleaned and cut into fourths
Butter or margarine

Set the package of meat in the sink and cut open the plastic wrapping; set seasoning packet aside. Lift out meat and rinse under cold water. Transfer meat to a large pot and add enough water to fill the pot; sprinkle in the seasonings from the packet. Cover pot with a lid. Turn on med-low and simmer 4-5 hours. Check for meat tenderness. If the meat is ready to be sliced, you may serve it or turn the heat to low and hold the meat in the broth for up to an hour or so.

An hour before meat is done, cut up desired amount of onions into fourths and add to meat pot.
Twenty minutes or so before serving, add large chunks of red potatoes (skins on) and the carrots to a second pot of salted water. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer vegetables until tender. Drain vegetables, add butter or margarine, combine gently and season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, strip outer leaves of cabbage, wash, core and cut head into wedges. In a third pot, bring 1-2 inches of salted water to boiling. Add cabbage wedges. Cover and bring back to the boil. Cook wedges 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain well and add butter or margarine. Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve this dinner, slice corned beef on the diagonal as desired and layer decoratively in the center of a large platter. Add cooked, buttered vegetables to surround the meat. Don't forget to retrieve the onions from the meat pot and place them on a separate serving dish. Serve this delicious meal with yellow mustard on the side.

Note: cooked corned beef is easy to can with a pressure canner.

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