Friday, March 16, 2012

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

It wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day at our house without some corned beef and cabbage.

I make mine the truly easy way -- in my crockpot!

I wish that I could say this is some secret old family recipe from the Auld Sod.  I could give you the recipe I inherited from my relatives, but I doubt you'd want it.  In my family growing up, corned beef and cabbage meant boiling the heck out of the meat, potatoes, cabbage and carrots in a large pot on the stove and then serving up the overly wilted mass with as much grainy, brown mustard as any of us could smear over it to cover the taste of the overly cooked cabbage.

These days?  I try to leave a little life in my cabbage -- less wilty, more tasty, in my book.

Usually as a side dish with my corned beef, I make some boxty -- a mashed potato casserole with sharp cheddar, cream cheese, chopped green onions, diced caramelized yellow onions, and steamed kale.  I mash all of this together, pour it into a casserole dish and then bake it up in a 350 F oven until the cheese gets melty and gooey and everything else melds together into an unctuous, creamy whole.  Top with a few little dots of butter, and watch your family drool.  Seriously. 

This year, though, I'm going to try something a little different and make some oven-baked diced red-skinned potatoes and diced sweet potatoes, baked at a high heat (about 425 F) with some diced onions and a little Balti seasoning, salt and pepper.  (Yes, I know the Balti is a type of Pakistani curry, but it is amazing on potatoes.   I will not let our pantry run low, it is that good!)

In any case, here is my corned beef brisket recipe.  It's a sort of blend of recipes I've seen in magazines through the years for on-the-stove cooking and how my own tastes have evolved through the years for my own cooking.  Here's what I do:

Crockpot Corned Beef Brisket

1 corned beef brisket, trimmed of major portions of fat where visible around the edges
1 can low-sodium beef broth
Water, if needed
1 onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, cut in large-ish chunks
1 or 2 c. baby carrots
2 bay leaves
1 packet of pickling spices that come with the corned beef
Plus another Tbsp or 2 of Penzeys pickling spices
2 or 3 cloves garlic, skinned and left whole

1 small head of cabbage, cored and sliced in small wedges

I rinse the corned beef once I take it out of the package, then dry it well on both sides.  Then I trim off the bigger chunks of visible fat around the edges -- there is plenty of fat inside, too, but I don't like that much saturated fat just sitting in my crockpot as this cooks all day, so I remove it.

If I'm not in a hurry, I like to salt and pepper both sides well and then brown it well in a large Dutch oven in some olive oil.  If you don't want to do this or don't have time for that step, don't worry about it -- just rinse your meat, dry well, trim visible fat, season with salt and pepper.

To the crockpot, add your diced onion, garlic cloves, celery chunks and baby carrots, to cover the bottom of the crock.  Place brisket on top.  Pour in 1 can low-sodium beef broth and all of your spices.  Add additional water if you have an especially large brisket and feel like it needs extra liquid.

That's it.  You cover, cook on LOW all day -- about 8 hours or so -- until the meat is tender and practically falling apart.  Once the meat is cooked, remove it from the crockpot and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes on a cutting board to rest and allow juices to stay in the meat before you slice.  Don't slice too quickly -- you don't want dry corned beef -- the rest time really does make a difference.

Use the rest time to cook your cabbage wedges.  Turn the crockpot up to HIGH, then add cabbage and cover with lid.  Let simmer in the corned beef juices for about 20 minutes -- it will still be a little firm, but wilted enough to be tender and full of flavor.  Don't overcook.

Serve with some grainy, brown mustard on the side.  And remember to slice your corned beef AGAINST the grain to get the most tender slices.

PS -- If you want some really deep flavor in your corned beef, you can add some Guinness Stout instead of water to supplement the liquid with your beef broth.  It is amazingly delicious as a braising liquid.  Yummmmm!

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