Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On Corned Beef Adventures, Pt. II, or "Too Late for St. Patrick"

Listen. I KNOW you needed to know the results of my Corned Beef Experiment on Friday so you could buy a brisket on Saturday and let it cure until St. Patrick's Day, this Saturday. I KNOW I should have tested this in February so you could make plans. My suggestion? If you're desperate for corned beef for your green beeriganza on Saturday, buy a pre-corned one. Then, on Sunday, buy an on-sale brisket and corn your own beef for next Saturday. My food blogger incompetence => discount beef => corned beef twice in one month. My gift to you.

So after salting and seasoning and Food Saver-ing my brisket, I let it sit for six days in the fridge. The color and density of the meat changed dramatically.
Into the crock pot it went with a heaping tablespoon of Penzey's Corned Beef spice and no additional salt. When I make corned beef out of the bag--and it has been several years, remarkably--I just slice it open, pour the meat, spices, and meat juice into the pot then cover with water to cook. Upon reflection, I wonder if I was supposed to rinse the meat and then cook it? Has my interpretation of what corned beef should taste like been flawed all these years because of my rinsing naivete? Or is the meat cured with nitrites, then rinsed and seasoned before it's purchased for sale? Either way, America's Test Kitchen said to rinse the beef. So you know I darned well rinsed the beef.

After two hours or so we remembered we were out of wine and had to stock up. I live in Utah, which means we cannot buy that which Jesus turned from water in a grocery store (where, incidentally, they also sell bread and fish with no moral restrictions). Yes, I know we should be able to leave a crock pot going all day unattended. But you know what? That one day the wind was blowing really hard and we said it would be fine? The fence blew over. That one rainstorm that went on for days and we said it would be fine? Flooded the backyard. That one time we left town for a week for a conference and said our house would be fine? THE CEILING FELL IN.

I pulled the meat and let it cool for 30 minutes before I put it in the fridge. An interesting aside; when I checked the temperature to gauge our odds of dying after dinner from food poisoning, I was happy to see it was cooked completely through. And Michelin consistency. (The tire, not the review.)

When we returned, I put the beef back in the machine and turned it to high for a few hours. Then to low for a few hours. Then I made a second dinner so we could eat at a decent hour. Finally, just before bed, I decided it was tender enough. Into Tupperware it went with all that delicious braising liquid.

I'm quite a fan of braising something the night before these days. There's no pressure to speed up the process so you can eat when you want to eat. The next day, you've got an amazing piece of meat ready to eat that all you have to do is create side dishes for. And maybe it's just me not having had to wait for it all day but the texture and flavor seem improved. You know, like when you haven't had cake for a really long time and suddenly TA DA you have cake and it just tastes like the most amazing thing ever? Kind of like that.
Not like that at all. Unless it's meat cake.

Now, since I technically braised instead of boiled, I didn't have enough braising liquid to boil the potatoes. Not even close. I only had about a cup and a half of very strong liquid, so I added another cup and a half so I could cook the vegetables.

And since I am a moron, I didn't realize that it would take the potatoes much longer to cook than the cabbage. In a very graceful maneuver, I fished out the floppy strands of cabbage and draped them over the corned beef slices and braising liquid warming in the pie tin set over the boiling potatoes. (This idea is from Kenji at Serious Eats. Genius extraordinaire.)

Dinner was tremendous. Now, you notice the beef is beef-colored, not red. This is due to my not processing the corned beef with nitrites. I put off corning my own beef for years because I thought this was necessary. It is a preservative that will make your corned beef last longer and stay red. However, I care little for the color and have most regrettably never met leftover corned beef. So who cares if it needs to last or if it's red?

And what to do with all that delicious braising liquid?

Shh. Don't talk.

Hello, lover.

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