For many of us, corned beef tastes delicious every day of the year. But its popularity soars on St. Patrick's Day — Irish heritage optional.
Like green beer, this holiday food tradition is largely a phenomenon in the United States. In fact, today's corned beef is more Jewish than Irish. It's rare to encounter it in Ireland.
The British are credited for corning beef in the 17th century by curing fresh beef with salt for preservation. Shaylyn Esposito, writing in the Smithsonian Magazine (March 15, 2013) explains the term "corned" comes from the size of the salt kernels used in the curing. For tax reasons, Irish salt was less expensive than British salt, so cattle was shipped to Ireland to be corned. Irish corned beef was exported to Europe and the Americas until the end of the 18th century when the demand declined as the North American colonies produced their own.
A million Irish people immigrated to this country during Ireland's Great Famine, frequently landing first in New York alongside Jewish immigrants from Eastern and Central Europe. Here, the Irish embraced beef, especially corned beef. However, Esposito explains "the corned beef the Irish immigrants ate was much different than that produced in Ireland 200 years prior. The Irish immigrants almost solely bought their meat from kosher butchers. And what we think of today as Irish corned beef is actually Jewish corned beef thrown into a pot with cabbage and potatoes."
Since brisket is a tough cut of beef, it is well suited to the salting and cooking that transforms it into tender, tasty corned beef. This all explains why today corned beef can be found in Irish-American households and Jewish delis alike.
Armed with these kernels of knowledge, it's time to get cooking. You can simmer corned beef roasts (sold in cry-o-vac packages in the meat case) with a little Irish stout and fresh orange slices in the oven. The whole house will smell delicious, hopefully providing a pleasant distraction when working in our home offices. At dinnertime, a peppery maple glaze will make the whole dish shine.
When time is short, you can channel a delicatessen and simply enjoy a warm corned beef sandwich, made from deli-sliced, fully cooked corned beef on rye bread with zesty horseradish-spiked mayonnaise.
And leftover corned beef tastes great tucked into creamy, cheesy pasta for a warming winter meal no matter where you live.
MAPLE-GLAZED CORNED BEEF WITH ORANGE AND STOUT
Total time: 4 hours
25 m (prepare time) + 3 1/2 hours (cook time)
6 to 8 servings
Notes: Look in the meat case for seasoned corned beef that's ready to cook. A whole corned beef brisket weighs 6 to 8 pounds. A 3-pound flat cut makes for easy slicing. You can prepare the recipe through step 2 in a slow-cooker set on low. Cooking time will be 6 to 8 hours; add the carrots after 4 hours.
For the corned beef:
1 flat cut, corned beef brisket (about 3 pounds)
2 medium-size sweet onions, cut into 8 wedges
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1 medium-size orange, ends trimmed, halved, thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 cup stout beer
8 long skinny carrots (about 12 ounces) peeled, cut crosswise in half
For the Glaze:
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses, optional
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Horseradish sauce, for serving
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Put corned beef, wedges from 2 medium-size onions, 2 chopped celery ribs, 1 thinly sliced orange, 3 cloves sliced garlic, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves and 2 bay leaves into a large (6-quart) Dutch oven. Add 1 cup stout beer and then cold water to cover everything by 1 inch. Heat to a gentle simmer over medium heat.
2. Place a piece of parchment paper over the top of the pot. Add the lid and carefully slide into the oven. Bake covered, stirring once or twice, for 2 hours.
3. Add carrots to pot; cover and continue baking until a fork inserted into meat releases easily, 1 to 1 1/2 more hours. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out and discard the orange slices. (Recipe can be prepared to this point and refrigerated in the liquid, covered, up to 2 days. Rewarm everything over medium-low heat on top of the stove.)
4. To make the glaze, mix 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1 tablespoon molasses (if using), 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper in a small saucepan. Heat to a simmer. Cook and stir until mixture reduces to a thick syrup consistency, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
5. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit on convection or 400 degrees Fahrenheit on conventional setting. Use tongs to transfer cooked corned beef to a foil-lined baking pan. Use a slotted spoon to transfer carrots and onion pieces around the meat in the baking pan. (You can strain the broth and save it for the base of a meaty soup.)
6. Drizzle the maple glaze over the meat and the vegetables. Bake, until bubbling hot, about 10 minutes. Transfer corned beef to a cutting board. Slice thinly, across the grain. Arrange on serving platter; pile the carrots and onions alongside the sliced meat. Pass the horseradish sauce.
CHEESY PASTA WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS AND CORNED BEEF
Total time 45 m
25 m (prepare time) + 20 m (cook time)
Notes: I prefer not to use pre-shredded cheese here because the added anti-caking ingredients interfere with a creamy melt. It's easy to shred chunks of cheese on the large holes of a four-sided grater. If desired, transfer the finished dish to a buttered baking dish and top with buttered bread crumbs; bake until crumbs are crisp and golden.
8 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) mezzi rigatoni or fusilli pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter or bacon fat
1/2 large sweet onion, very thinly sliced
1/3 cup flour
2 cups nonfat milk
1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy (whipping) cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce, plus more for serving
1 cup (3 ounces) shredded white cheddar cheese
1 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese
1 1/2 cups (4 to 5 ounces) small dice corned beef (or smoky ham)
Chopped parsley and green onions, for garnish
1. Have all ingredients ready and set near the cooking surface.
2. Heat a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add 8 ounces pasta. Cook, stirring often, until al dente (nearly tender but not soft when tasted), 8 to 10 minutes. Scoop out 1 cup of the cooking liquid and reserve it. Drain the pasta well and let stand while you make the sauce.
3. While the pasta cooks, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter or bacon fat in medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 large sweet onion, thinly slices; cook and stir until onion is golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
4. Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour over onions; cook and stir for 1 minute. Whisk in 2 cups nonfat milk and 1/2 cup half-and-half (or whipping cream) and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, whisking constantly until milk thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and season with 1 teaspoon red pepper hot sauce.
5. When pasta is done, stir both cheeses into the hot white sauce. Add drained pasta and corned beef; mix gently. Taste for salt. Gently stir in enough of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to loosen up the mixture. Serve right away sprinkled with parsley and onions.
WARM CORNED BEEF SANDWICH WITH BLACK PEPPER MAYO
Total time 10 m
8 m (prepare time) + 1 m (cook time)
Notes: You can toast the rye bread if desired, but I like the texture of untoasted bread with warm corned beef.
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
4 slices hearty rye bread
6 to 8 ounces very thinly sliced corned beef
Very thinly sliced red onion, well rinsed, optional
1. Mix 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish and 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper in small bowl. Spread the mixture over one side of 4 rye bread slices.
2. Fold the 6 to 8 ounces corned beef slices in half and pile them onto a microwave-safe plate. Cover with plastic and microwave on high (100 percent power) just long enough to make the meat steamy hot, 45 to 60 seconds.
3. Arrange half of the corned beef on two slices of the bread. Top with a few red onion slices if desired. Top with a second bread slice. Serve while warm.