Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Corned beef and cabbage a staple

Seasonal Fare

The Associated Press

Corned beef and cabbage is enjoyed regularly in many American households, although its popularity typically soars on St. Patrick's Day.

Join the Culinary Institute of America in creating a twist on this classic Irish dish. Typically paired with carrots and potatoes, the institute's recipe for corned beef and cabbage with winter vegetables also includes beets, turnips and pearl onions.

According to historical records, corned beef and cabbage got its start in Ireland in the 17th century. The word "corns," which means "grains," dates to Anglo-Saxon times. During this period when refrigeration wasn't available, beef was dry-cured to extend its shelf life. The process involved rubbing coarse "corns" of salt into the beef to aid in preservation.

Today, corned beef is cured or brined in a mixture of salt, water, T.C.M. (Tinted Cure Mix), sweetener and seasonings. Bay leaf and peppercorns are the most common spices used to season the beef. Depending on the supplier, some beef briskets come packaged with a separate flavor packet.

Although it's possible to corn your own beef, the process can take as long as three weeks. Fortunately, corned beef brisket purchased from the store has already undergone the brining process.

"Corned beef needs adequate time to slowly simmer," says chef Fred Brash, lecturing instructor in culinary arts at the institute.

"The winter vegetables should be added during the last hour of the cooking process in order to be ready when the meat becomes fork tender and moist."

Once a staple in the Irish diet, corned beef and cabbage may have become more popular in the United States than in Ireland. Since the arrival of refrigeration, some believe that the Irish now favor fresh meats to their brined counterparts.

However, corned beef and cabbage is still eaten during certain holidays in rural Ireland. Whether opinions about who eats more corned beef and cabbage are myth or fact, enjoying this delicious and comforting classic promises you the luck of the Irish.

This recipe was adapted from the Culinary Institute of America's The Professional Chef, 7th Edition (Wiley; $65).

Corned Beef With Cabbage and Winter Vegetables

5 pounds corned beef brisket, trimmed

6 cups beef stock or water, cold

2 to 3 medium beets, skin on (11/2 cups diced)

1 small head cabbage (about 1 pound), cut into wedges

11/2 cups potatoes (1/2 pound), cut into large dice

11/2 cups carrots (1/2 of 16-ounce package baby carrots), cut into large dice

11/2 cups turnips (1/2 pound), cut into large dice

11/2 cups pearl onions

Salt, as needed

Black pepper, as needed

Split the brisket along the natural seam into two pieces. Place the meat in a deep pot and add enough stock or water to cover the meat (if there is a flavor packet included with the brisket, add it at this time). Bring to a boil, skimming the surface as necessary. Reduce the heat to establish a slow simmer, cover and continue simmering until the meat is nearly fork tender, about 21/2 hours.

While the corned beef is simmering, cook the beets in simmering salted water until tender, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the beets and let them cool until they can be handled easily. Slip off or cut away the skin. Cut the beets into large dice, about 1 inch by 1 inch. Ladle some of the cooking liquid from the corned beef over the beets and reserve. (Beets must be reheated until very hot before serving.)

Add the cabbage, potato, carrot, turnip and pearl onions to the corned beef and continue to simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked, tender and flavorful, and the corned beef is fork-tender, about 35 to 45 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper during cooking time.

Remove the corned beef from the cooking liquid, allow the meat to stand for 10 minutes before cutting, and then carve into slices. Serve with vegetables. Makes 8 servings.

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