Sunday, March 17, 2002

Serve it this week: Corned Beef

By Chuck Martin,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        History: Corned beef is so named because corn-sized crystals of salt were once used to brine, or preserve, large cuts of beef brisket and beef round. In addition to salt, spices such as garlic, allspice, black pepper and bay leaves sometimes season the brine. Sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate often are added to give the beef a rosy red color.

        FYI: Serving and eating corned beef on St. Patrick's Day seems to be mostly an American or Irish-American tradition. Lamb and salmon are more commonly served for the holiday meal in Ireland. Except for counties Dublin and Cork, corned beef and cabbage are eaten rarely on the Emerald Isle, according to Margaret Johnson, author of the Irish Heritage Cookbook (Chronicle; $18.95).

        Prepare: Rinse corned beef under running water to remove brine solution and simmer about three hours in water to cover until tender. For corned beef and cabbage, add cabbage wedges during last 20 minutes of cooking. Serve with horseradish and/or whole grain mustard. For New England Boiled Beef Dinner, cook corned brisket until tender, then simmer pearl onions, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, turnips and cabbage in the stock. Serve vegetables with sliced corned beef and boiled beets.

        Nutrition concerns: Because of its brine, corned beef is very high in sodium (about 962 mg per 3 ounces) and often high in fat. Those with heart disease, hypertension or kidney problems should limit themselves to small portions.

        Professional treatment: Though it's a big tradition here for St. Patrick's Day, good corned beef is more likely to be found in a Jewish deli than an Irish pub. Izzy's is the first local place that comes to mind. The deli celebrated its 100th birthday last year and just opened its fifth location — this one is in Covington.

        A company in Chicago make its corned beef, according to Izzy Kadetz's original recipe from 1958. It is very lean and sliced very thinly, and is, of course, the basis of Izzy's well-known Reuben sandwich.

— Dining writer Polly Campbell contributed

Candied Corned Beef

        1 corned beef brisket (about 4 pounds)
       20 black peppercorns
       2 bay leaves
       3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
       1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
       1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
       1 teaspoon ground ginger

        Rinse brine from corned beef and place in large pot. Add water to cover and add peppercorns and bay leaves. Simmer, covered, until fork can easily penetrate the center of brisket, about 3 hours. Remove beef from broth and drain briefly.

        Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place brisket on baking sheet lined with foil. Mix brown sugar, soy sauce, dry mustard and ginger. Spread mixture evenly over brisket. Place brisket in oven and bake until topping has set and turned golden brown, about 15 minutes.

        Remove from oven and let beef stand at least 15 minutes before thinly slicing against grain. Serve with horseradish and/or coarse mustard. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

— Joy of Cooking (Scribner;$30)


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- Serve it this week: Corned Beef
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