Thursday, March 15, 2012

my favorite (non) Irish St Patrick’s Day dinner


In Ireland, corned beef and cabbage is about as Irish as spaghetti and meatballs. I guess this peasant meal is just an American way to celebrate Irish heritage. So, if you’re planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a traditional non-Irish dinner this weekend, I have a couple recipes you should try.

First, you need to buy the best piece of corned beef you can find. This is of utmost importance to the entire meal, so splurge on a roast that’s the real thing. We’re fortunate to have several stores nearby that sell local beef. Beef from cattle raised without growth hormones or antibiotics on farms where they graze on natural native grasslands, pastures and forests. My favorite local store is New Seasons Market, and this is where I buy corned beef. Their corned beef is a beef brisket that is not overly salted or seasoned.

I’ve often wondered why some meats sold as corned beef are red and others gray, so I emailed the friendly people at New Seasons to find out. Within 24-hours, I received an email from Daniel Menashe, a customer advocate at the market, who took me to beef school.

According to Daniel, “Red corned beef is a more modern invention. It’s the result of adding potassium nitrate or sodium nitrite to the meat in order to preserve the red color. It may look prettier, but some folks take issue with the safety of these compounds, and most chefs and gourmands feel that they can rob the subtlety from a cured meat.” “Our corned beef is classic gray and proud of it.”

At New Seasons they use beef brisket because it’s the most tender and well-marbled.

He also explained where the term corn comes in. “The corn in ‘corned beef,’ doesn’t refer to the New World grain, but rather an Old English term for salt — a corn of salt used to mean the same thing as a grain of salt.”

To sum it up — “Brisket is best. Go for the gray. It has nothing to do with corn.”

Now that you know everything you need to know about corned beef, pick up a three pound piece of gray beef, perfectly cured with herbs and spices at your favorite local store, the best way to cook it is very slowly in a Dutch oven.


Corned Beef and Cabbage Stew

3 lbs corned beef
24 oz Guinness (or other stout beer)
12 small red potatoes
4 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters
1 green cabbage, sliced into 8 wedges
4 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Horseradish for serving

Place beef into a large (7 quart) oven-proof dish and add enough beer to cover the meat. You may need to add some water to fully cover the meat. Place a lid over the dish and place into a 325°F oven for about 3 1/2 hours.

Layer all the vegetables into the pot and bake for another 35 minutes or until the potatoes are fully cooked.

Lay out the vegetables onto a serving platter. Slice the corned beef, against the grain into thin slices and top with any cooking liquid that you desire. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve warm.

This soda bread is an absolute must served alongside the corned beef stew...


It’s only slightly sweet, but still feels and tastes like a treat with its super moist crumb and prominent flavors of orange and caraway.


The following recipe is the original Irish soda bread from Grand Central Baking Company, a fabulous local bakery here in Portland.

Grand Central’s Irish Soda Bread
Makes 8 pieces, or two large rounds

4 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 Tablespoons orange zest
2-1/4 teaspoons caraway seeds
3/4 cup currants
14 Tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons buttermilk, divided
Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 Tablespoon water and a pinch of salt)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a high-sided mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in orange zest, caraway seeds and currants.

Dice butter in 1/2-inch cubes. Use your hands or the paddle attachment to mix butter into dry ingredients until the texture becomes mealy. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and chill overnight, or proceed with the recipe.

Add 3/4 cup buttermilk all at once, mixing just until the dough comes together, 30-35 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients and add remaining buttermilk.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 2 chunks. Gently shape the pieces into dome-like disks and score each one into quarters.

Place disks on the baking sheet and brush liberally with egg wash. Put the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until disks are shiny and golden brown.

You know what else is good with this dinner? Guinness. Yum!




Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit! 


Jemm said...

We have a brisket brining as we speak for corned beef dinner tomorrow. We've never made our own from scratch. Hopefully it turns out delish!

Cindy said...

Yum! How was it? I ended up cooking a brisket in brine and Guinness then adding only the cabbage. I roasted veggies separately and made mashed potatoes. A bit more work than I planned on, but worth it.

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

I hope you and your family had a very Happy St. Patrick's Day, Cindy. Thanks so much for sharing Grand Central's soda bread recipe. Oh man, I love that bakery.

Sharon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharon said...

Too many typos in my last comment so I deleted it--here I'll try again:

I did my last corned beef in a crock pot--big mistake! I'm going to get another one and cook it slowly in my Dutch oven with your recipe! I like the idea of drowning it in Guinness. I'll go to New Seasons and get a grey one to try (grey, really?) It looks delicious, though.

Sharon said...

All right. Because of you my house currently smells like a pub in Dublin. Got the last 5 lbs of natural corned beef from the Mtn. Park New Seasons. I am cooking it in a vat of Guinness Stout. Can't wait to taste this! I'll let you know how it turns out.