It’s a Boston thing…

… AKA corned beef and leftovers, part 1.

I never had a proper serving of corned beef until I was 23 years old. Before that, I only had a deli version that came in a plastic packet as a kid.  But one of the vendors through my full time job did annual St. Patrick’s Day lunches with real corned beef until the recession hit. I loved it.  The missing ritual became more noticeable when I kept hearing all my co-workers talk about their version of corned beef. (Hey! Even the Italian French woman in my office makes corned beef every year!)  It was driving me crazy.  So, steps needed to be taken.

I wanted to make corned beef last year, but the Alton Brown recipe calls for saltpeter as an ingredient. I’ve been told that there’s one pharmacy in my general area that sells saltpeter, but I’ve been too lazy to track it down. A year later, I’ve learned that you don’t need it to make corned beef. It’s mainly to retain a nicer color. As long as you keep the beef in the refrigerator while it’s brining, there isn’t much chance of bacterial infection.

I don’t have  instructions to use per se, but I was working off of an Alton Brown’s recipe and one of Martha Stewart’s recipes. If you’re using kosher salt, make sure that it’s pure salt, free of anti-caking ingredients. Using pickling salt is one way to make sure that you’re using pure salt. I ended up using fine pickling salt, which meant reducing the kosher salt amounts by half (I think I could have reduced the salt even a little more than that but I wasn’t willing to experiment at the time).

For spices, I decided to use a bag of Penzeys corned beef seasoning. I made 2 quarts + 2 cups of brining liquid and threw in about 4-5 tablespoons of the seasoning. The brisket was left to brine in the fridge for 6 days.

When I finished cooking the brisket, I think it was overcooked. meh.  Most recipes specify a brisket at least 4 pounds, and my brisket was just a little under 4 pounds. Plus, I might have trimmed off too much fat. When all was said and done, it was easy to poke with a fork but it was a little chewier than expected.

(haha, I realized after I took the above photo that the potatoes go in during the last hour of cooking.  Luckily, no harm done so yay!)

Despite slightly imperfect results, it was a great experiment. Like David Chang said, it’s impossible to succeed with flying colors on the first try.  My grandmother and I were addicted to eating the cabbage, and my brother-in-law had a second helping even though my corned beef and cabbage didn’t taste like the one his parents would make.  So, I’m not complaining.

But I ended up with lots of leftovers.  So what now?  Stay tuned!

Reference links:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/corned-beef-recipe/index.html
http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/corned-beef-and-cabbage

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