Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Irish stomachs are smiling

St. Patrick's Day doesn't particularly show up on the Kitchen Ninja's radar. It's not that I'm going to turn up my nose at an excuse to drink some Guinness, but getting sloppy drunk on dyed-green beer and listening to Bostonians brawl has never been high on the priority list.

That said, St. Patrick's Day definitely has some culinary marks in its favour. The most important of those, of course, is the corned beef and cabbage.

As many before me have noted, this is absolutely not an Irish dish; if I wanted to go authentic for the holiday, I'd make a lamb stew or colcannon. I'll probably make colcannon yet this week anyway. But in terms of deliciousness, you really can't beat a classic New England boiled dinner - which is precisely what "corned beef and cabbage" really is. It's one-pot brisket for Puritans.

Ask anyone - the Kitchen Ninja is as big a fan of corned beef as anyone. Maybe bigger. Growing up, I firmly believed that a good, salty, cured-and-braised cut of beef had miraculous healing properties. This might be because I always craved salt when I was sick - go figure - and once demanded corned beef when I was down with the flu while on vacation in Las Vegas (something that promptly entered into Ninja Family lore).

Or it might be because my mother makes the best corned beef in history. Don't ask me how someone who's approximately as Irish as I am a rabbit manages to pull this off - I don't have a clue. But it's true - my mum makes a corned beef worth killing for. Mine isn't half so good, but it still holds its own in the pantheon of New England boiled dinners.

This time around, it was just me for St. Patrick's Day - which didn't stop me from cooking up a whole point-cut corned beef, a couple potatoes, half a head of cabbage, and a couple carrots. I figured it would be enough to take care of the corned beef craving and still provide fodder for a few sandwiches and, of course, corned beef hash down the line. And, after all, isn't corned beef hash half - or more - of the reason to cook a boiled dinner in the first place?

More on that later. Now, on to the main dish!

New England Boiled Dinner
serves 4

One corned beef, either point- or flat-cut, around 3.5lb (adjust to fit the number of people)
3 Yukon gold potatoes cut into chunks or 8-10 new/red potatoes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into medallions
Half a head of cabbage, cut into wedges
Bay leaf
Spice pack from corned beef
1c water
3c beer (the cheap stuff is acceptable here - the Kitchen Ninja made use of a Mystery 40 in the back of the fridge)


  1. Trim some of the excess fat from the corned beef; you need to leave some fat on there for flavour, but leaving too much will just mean you have to skim-and-trim later.
  2. Put the corned beef into a slow-cooker vessel and arrange the potatoes around it.
  3. Cover with water and beer. Sprinkle with spice pack seasoning and a quarter-teaspoon or so of whole peppercorns, and add the bay leaf.
  4. Put the lid on the slow cooker and turn the thing to Low. Cook on Low for 4-5 hours.
  5. Arrange cabbage wedges in the vessel and add carrots. If any part of the beef is sticking out of the cooking liquid, flip the beef over.
  6. Cook on Low for another 1-2 hours, or until vegetables are tender and corned beef is cooked through.
  7. Remove meat and veggies to a tray and let the meat cool slightly before slicing.
  8. Devour, accompanied by spicy brown mustard and/or horseradish. Make sure to save some for later - cold corned beef sandwiches and corned beef hash are even better than the main show, so it's worth fighting the urge to down every last succulent morsel now.
Later: Irish soda bread and corned beef hash.


Cyn said...

The real question is why the kitchen ninja had a mystery 40 in the first place.

The Kitchen Ninja said...

I think it may have been obtained in the service of chili. That's the only reason I can come up with, unless my fridge houses magical beer elves.

And if it does, they really need to get better taste in booze.