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Friday, March 16, 2012

Scratch Corned Beef and Scalloped Cabbage

Corned beef and cabbage is actually a traditional American Irish meal, it isn't something you see on a menu in Ireland. Nevertheless, my family has been eating it for years, but we always bought the beef already "corned". Since we have been brining turkey and pork for a couple of years, I figured beef couldn't be that much different. And, of course, it's not.

The main difference is that you let the beef soak in the brine for 5-7 days, so it really picks up a saltiness. This process also requires a significant amount of pickling spice, which can be expensive at the store. Since we already had most of the ingredients in the cabinet, I decided we could make out own. So, this really is "from scratch"!

Now, about the cabbage. I like it, but I know a lot of people don't. I wanted to do something different to appeal to the non-cabbage lovers, and this was a delicious change from just boiling it. Definitely keeping this on the regular rotation of recipes! Please enjoy my last installment of Irish Food Week!

Scratch Corned Beef and Scalloped Cabbage
A week ahead of time, you will want to start the brining process. You will need:
(brining process loosely based on a recipe from Michael Ruhlman)
2 1/2 cups kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons pickling spice*
1 5-7 pound beef brisket
1 1/2 gallons of water

In a pot large enough to hold the brisket and the water, combine the salt, sugar, garlic and pickling spice. Bring to a simmer, and simmer long enough that the sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat and let it come to room temperature. Refrigerate the brine until thoroughly chilled. Place brisket in the brine, and place a large plate on top to keep it submerged in the brine. Keep brisket in the brine for 5-7 days.

When you are ready to cook the brisket, remove it from the brine and rinse well. In the bottom of a large pot, place a large onion, quartered, 2 stalks of celery and 2 carrots, cut into large chunks. Place the corned beef on top of these, add 2 tablespoons of pickling spice and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer slowly for 3-4 hours, until meat is fork-tender. You can also do this in a crock pot. When you are ready to serve, remove corned beef from pot, place on cutting board and let it rest for 5-7 minutes before cutting.

For the pickling spice:

3 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 tablespoons mustard seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons allspice berries
1 1/2 tablespoon ground mace
3 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
3 to 4 bay leaves, crumbled
3 tablespoons whole cloves
1 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger.

Place peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a small saute pan. Heat and stir until fragrant, being careful not to scorch or burn them. Seeds may pop or crack while you are toasting them. Gently crack peppercorns and seeds in mortar and pestle or with the side of a knife on cutting board.

Toss together with other spices. Store in tightly sealed plastic or glass container.

Scalloped Cabbage
1 small head of cabbage
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons grated horseradish
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4 ounces Irish cheddar, grated

Preheat oven to 350. Start a large pot of water to boil. Remove core from the cabbage and chop into bite sized pieces. When water comes to a boil, add the cabbage, and stir frequently just until cabbage starts to become tender. Drain water from cabbage, and place cabbage on a towel. Give it a good squeeze to remove as much of the water as you can. In a large bowl, mix together the milk, horseradish, salt and pepper. Butter a 2 quart casserole dish, and layer one third of the cabbage in the bottom. Top with one third of the shredded cheese. Repeat until cabbage and cheese are used up, ending with the cheese. Pour the milk mixture over the entire dish. Bake, covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

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