This recipe is one often associated with St. Patrick's Day as it is a favorite of the Irish. It is simple to make, inexpensive and delicious. It is perfect for serving to a hungry crowd. I am partly Irish, which means my family members have long enjoyed this dish. I learned some years ago, thanks to Marie, that making a horseradish cream sauce to serve with the corned beef makes a superb combination, so you will want to find that recipe in the Dips, Dressings and Sauces section of Food Nirvana. I've found that a lot of folks never had horseradish cream sauce with the corned beef, so I decided to include this information to enhance your eating experience with Corned Beef and Cabbage.
Corned beef is made from beef brisket, which is an inexpensive, mostly lean cut of beef that is too tough to use except by boiling it for an extended period of time or slow cooking it covered, in moist conditions in an oven as pot roast. Supermarkets typically sell the corned beef for this dish in roughly three pound amounts, prepackaged, for about $3 per pound. Around St. Patrick's Day the markets typically put heads of cabbage on sale also, often for 39 cents to 49 cents per pound. Add in a few potatoes and some carrots and voila! You have the complete and inexpensive meal, less the horseradish cream sauce, which you want to be sure to remember to make. A word about serving size for the corned beef is important. Due to the presence of some surface fat on the brisket and due to the high moisture content of the meat due to the marinating (corning) process used commercially to make it, the yield from three pounds of corned beef is only enough to feed four hungry adults. Plan your purchases accordingly. Similarly, a medium size head of cabbage is okay for four people, but scale up or down in what you buy based on the number of people to be served and the size of heads of cabbage. For example, a very large head of cabbage is enough for six people. I generally allow for two medium to large carrots per person.
Some packages of corned beef include a seasoning packet. Some do not. If you have the packet then use it instead of the bay leaves and ground pepper shown below. Otherwise, be sure to use the bay leaves and ground pepper. Actually, if you really want to get back to basics you can look up a recipe for the corning process in The Joy of Cooking® and make your own corned beef from plain beef brisket ... but note that the corning process takes a week or so in your refrigerator, so plan well in advance if you are adventurous.
The cooking procedure shown below allows for cooking for a crowd of eight or more people using only one cooking pot, but making use of a warming oven to hold each item, covered, after it is cooked. The meal is served with the food items separated, each in it's own serving dish, and the guests decide how much of each item they want. This differs a lot from recipes where all the vegetables are added to a large roasting pan with the beef after the beef is simmered, and then served wet on a large platter.
There is no special beverage associated with this meal, so anything from water to iced tea to beer will be fine.
Ingredients: (serves four adults)
3 lb. package of corned beef
4 medium size russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into eight pieces each
6 bay leaves
15 coarsely ground or crushed black pepper corns (I put them into a Ziploc® freezer bag and crush them with a kitchen mallet)
1 medium size head of cabbage (about 5 or 6 inches in diameter)
8 medium to large size carrots
Variation: Add a large white turnip, peeled and cut into eight pieces. Cook it with the potatoes and carrots.
Preheat the oven to 200ºF. Put a meat platter into the oven for later use with the beef at serving time.
Trim the corned beef of most of its fat. Alternatively, you can boil the beef first and then scrape the soft fat from it prior to putting the beef into the oven.
Put the beef into a two gallon pot with enough water to cover it. Then add the seasoning packet contents or the bay leaves and ground pepper.
Bring the pot contents to a boil on high heat, then reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and simmer the beef for three hours.
While the beef is simmering prepare the other ingredients. Peel and chop the potatoes and put the pieces into a large bowl and fill it with water. Peel and cut the carrots into three or four pieces each and add them to the potatoes.
Make the horseradish cream sauce per the Food Nirvana recipe in Dips, Dressings and Sauces. Cover and refrigerate it until it is served.
After three hours of simmering, remove the beef to the small pre-warmed platter, scrape the soft fat off and discard it if you didn't eliminate the fat prior to cooking, cover it tightly with aluminum foil and put it into the oven.
Drain the potatoes and carrots (and turnip if you used one) and add them to the pot, adding enough water to cover them if necessary. Increase the heat to high to bring the contents to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for fifteen minutes. Check for doneness with a fork. The carrots should be soft. If not, simmer for an additional five minutes.
Remove the potatoes and carrots (and turnip pieces) and put them into two serving dishes, separating the carrots from the potatoes and turnip. Cover each dish tightly with aluminum foil and put the dishes into the oven.
Cut the head of cabbage into quarters, then cut the core area from each quarter and discard it. Put the four quarters of cabbage into the pot, cover it with the lid, increase the heat to high until the liquid is boiling and then simmer the cabbage for fifteen minutes on low heat.
Pre-warm dinner plates in the oven for five to ten minutes.
Remove the cabbage to a serving bowl, cover the bowl tightly with aluminum foil and put it into the oven.
Remove the beef from the oven and slice it crossways into 1/2" to 3/4" thick slices.
Remove the vegetable serving bowls from the oven and remove the aluminum foil covers.
Get the horseradish cream sauce from the refrigerator.
Remove the dinner plates from the oven.
Serve the meal buffet style using your island or kitchen counter.
You will receive many compliments!