Saturday, March 12, 2016

St. Patrick's Day Feast. Are you ready?

It's Ersatz St. Paddy's here in Sioux Falls. Paint the shamrock with Sylvia, get bombed with a bus load of Canadian Shriners, eat breakfast at McNally's, and stand around the parade.  Or not.  If you are, please be safe and don't drink and drive.

Me? I'm skipping the ordeal, oops, I mean festivities. But in honor of my Irish grandmother who treated St. Patrick's Day like Mardis Gras, New Years Eve, a birthday and V-E Day all rolled into one, I will be making some corned beef and cabbage to celebrate Thursday. Personally, I think a brisket slowly cooked with aromatics and vegetables is more Eastern European Jewish than Irish, but hey, it's 'Merica! And it is comfort food. A tough cut of meat (cheap, or cheaper than a nice tender steak) seasoned well and cooked into submission makes for great eating. 

For the second time, I am brining my own. In other words, I am taking a brisket flat I purchased at Costco and making that into corned beef.  Plain beef brisket, not that pre-corned crap in a bag. It sits in a brine solution consisting of water, salt, sugar, pickling spices, garlic, and the magic ingredient sodium nitrate a/k/a pink salt a/k/a saltpeter. I keep it in that brine for five days. Then I take it out, rinse it, and toss it into a crock pot. Add one bottle of Guinness, a healthy pinch of more pickling spices, and one roughly chopped onion, carrot and celery. Put the lid on, put it on low, and carry on. After a good 8 hours or so, add some new carrots and celery to serve with the meat. About an hour or so before you plan to serve it, put in some whole baby potatoes and some wedges of cabbage.

Use the internets to find a brine formula. It's not as precise as baking French macaroons, but this isn't a time to eyeball all the ingredients, especially the water, salt, sugar, and sodium nitrate. You need to hit a certain level of salinity. Oh, and you can get pink salt at Uncle Eds, or possibly Scheels or places where sausage is made. If all else fails, Amazon. Be careful with it. It's not pink to color meats, it's pink so you don't eat it or put it in a salt shaker. 

Serve that up with some nice mustard, or better yet for me some horseradish, a little soda bread with some butter, and knock yourself out. The leftovers will make for a killer corned beef hash and/or a good Reuben sandwich. Whatever you do, DO NOT toss the liquid left in the crock pot. Use that to cook a regular beef pot roast, a pork roast, or a chicken or something. It's amazing.