Thursday, March 17, 2011

Corned Beef and Cabbage

  Q: What does this post have to do with wine? Or with the Verde Valley?
  A: Nothing, deal with it.

  Today is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It is a day when the whole country, some 60 or more percent of whom can claim some Irish blood, get really drunk and do things they'd just as soon not admit to and wear silly green hats and pinch each other. God love America and her holidays. We go nuts over Cinco de Mayo (even though we really wish they'd all go home),  a minor observance in Mexico and NOT their day of independence, so why not use our alleged Irish-ness as a reason to do silly things, drink too much and eat supposed "Irish" foods.

  For generations, the Irish have been known not for their food, but for their booze. Legendary distillers of some of the finest whiskey ever made, Bushmill's and Tullamore Dew are beyond compare. Then, there's Guinness. What would life be like without Guinness? I'll tell you. Dismal, that's what. I know you've heard me extoll the virtues of Bitch Creek here. No doubt about it, Bitch Creek is a great beer and my stash is almost gone, but Guinness is, well, Guinness. Guinness is perhaps the highest expression of the brewer's art. Their newly available Foreign Export, at over 8% ABV is beyond compare.

  In the food department, the same cannot be said. Imagine an island, surrounded by the cold, clean waters of the North Atlantic. A North Atlantic filled, brimming, JUMPING full of edible delights. The people who call this island home have a significant seafaring tradition. An ocean full of fish and a population that knows how to navigate those waters ought to equal a seafood culinary tradition beyond compare, right? Well, not so much. What have the Irish traditionally eaten? Cabbage and potatoes. Their legendary dependance on potatoes ( a decidedly native American plant) is what caused so many of them to flee their homeland and come to this country when the crops failed. An ocean full of the healthiest food on the planet and you're running away because the POTATO crops failed? WTF is wrong with this picture??

  I count myself among the smallest minority in this country. Someday I may start a fund or political action committee. PWANI. People Who Are Not Irish. We will stand up for our rights, just you wait and see. In the meantime, we'll just have to eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's day like all the other Suddenly-Irish Persons in the country.

  Before talking about cooking the above mentioned delicacy, we need to allay some myths. First: Saint Patrick's favorite color wasn't green. He's most often depicted historically in BLUE. Google is your friend, look it up. Second, and most important: CORNED BEEF is not Irish. You will most likely find actual Irish persons eating boiled bacon and cabbage. Irish bacon is more like our salt pork than our bacon. They might also boil up a joint of some mutton, or an un-cured joint of beef with the ubiquitous cabbage, but corned beef is a decidedly American addition to the tradition. In fact, it's more Jewish than it is anything else. The laws of Kosher require beef to be sapped of all it's available blood before cooking. Blood is a big biblical no-no (see Leviticus if you don't believe me). The practice of soaking beef in salt or salt brine is a tenet of Kosher food preparation. In addition, the word "Corned" comes not from any modern use of the word but from the ENGLISH (as in ENGLAND English) word for the size of the salt grains used in salting meat. As any practicing IrishPerson knows, the English are the Devil's Own.

  Somehow, never the less, corned beef and cabbage has become what silly Americans associate with St.   Patrick's day. All ethnic considerations aside, it's a great dish. Salty meat, cabbage, potatoes, what in the world is there not to like? It doesn't go with wine. It requires beer, stout beer, ale, good stuff, GUINNESS.

  I was in WalMart today buying a piece of corned beef and a head of cabbage. As I passed through the checkout, the lady checker said "you better get home and put this on if you want to have it tonight, mine's been in the CrockPot all day".  I smiled and said "I barbecue mine, doesn't take so long". "Oh", she said, looking at me like I was some alien spoor come to spoil her "tradition".

  Here's how to cook corned beef so it tastes better than the stringy stuff we all grew up with.

  SOAK: soak your piece of corned beef in tepid water for at least 2 hours to remove the salt. Change the water at least twice or three times if you can. Reserve the water from the last soaking.

  SIMMER: your beef in the last soaking's liquid until a thermometer registers about 140 degrees on the inside of the beef. Don't boil it for God's sake. It'll take an hour or so. Save the simmering liquid.

  SPICE: your beef with the paltry amount of seasoning that comes in the cheesy packet you got with your roast. Add to that more pepper, coriander seeds, etc. to cover the fat side of the meat.

  ROAST: your beef using offset heat on your grill. Light one side, put the roast on a sheet of foil to catch drippings or a pan that fits if you have one. Your grill should be not hotter than 250 American Degrees. It'll take about an hour. When it's up to 160 American Degrees inside, take it out, cover it with foil and let it rest.

  BOIL: your potatoes and cabbage, putting the potatoes in first and adding the cabbage during the last 5 minutes or so (see Vlad and Corina's cabbage abomination in a previous post) in the liquid you simmered the beef in.

  Slice the beef, scoop out the taters and cabbage, open a Gunness and enjoy.

 As me sainted grandmother never in her life said, "What's a fookin' crockpot?"



John Parsons said...

Well said, GH. We trust you are having a fine Guinness time today while noshing on yer corned beef and cabbage. Thanks for helping us all be truly informed!

Susun said...

Brad, Reading your "stuff" is NOT FLUFF and is all ways FUN! Happy St. Pat's Day and as I like to say and do..." Erin Go Bra..less" Your Trusty Friend, SusannaBandana