Today: St. Patrick's Day gets spring fever.
Corned beef and cabbage never really had a fighting chance.
As St. Patrick's Day rolls in with the last days of winter, we're already itching for a little excitement (this might explain the green beer).
While it's a dish that's comforting in its reverent plainness, that's about the best it could hope for -- until now.
Enter Suzanne Goin, a chef more synonymous with sunny California farmers' markets and Mediterranean cooking than economic meats and carbs. (Her restaurant in L.A. is named after a French olive -- who is she to tell us how to make our Irish-American stew?)
But perhaps that's just what corned beef and cabbage was waiting for all this time: a little sunshine. And, since Goin's version comes from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, her much-loved book of family-style menus, it's almost as easy as the old school dump-in-the-crock pot approach, with a few brilliant tweaks (see below for the recipe).
First off, she treats the vegetables as equal partners. James Beard may have boiled his carrots for an hour, but modern cooks have since gotten the memo that vegetables might not be in their prime after stewing along with a salty slab of beef for so long.
So Goin divorces the vegetables from the meat, and they're free to cook in their own time -- that is, briefly. The beef will bubble merrily in the oven for hours before you even need to peel a carrot. Then out comes the beef and the vegetables go in, just for a dip. Goin isn't alone in this method, but she does clock the vegetables out in perfect time.
She adds the potatoes first (because there's no such thing as an al dente potato). Then after five minutes, the rest of the team -- carrots, cabbage, and turnips -- join in to poach for about 15 minutes. They cook just enough, soaking up seasoning from the broth, but staying true to themselves.
In an exciting twist, while they're simmering, Goin has us throw the beef in the still-hot oven to brown and crisp up a bit. (At the market, choose a specimen with a little fat left on top -- you'll be glad when it gets sizzling.)
Finally, she brings in what any salty, long-cooked broth craves: a sauce that vibrates with life. She takes a traditional corned beef condiment -- a white sauce with parsley and mustard -- and reincarnates it into an herby vinaigrette, very much like a feisty chimichurri or Italian salsa verde.
Think of what a dill pickle does for your corned beef on rye -- that's what a little vinegar does here, swirling in your soup along with sharp bites of shallot, the emerald stain of pounded parsley, and mustard seeds that slide across the meat and pop under your teeth. How's that for excitement?
Suzanne Goin's Corned Beef & Cabbage with Parsley-Mustard Sauce
Adapted very slightly from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin with Teri Gelber (Knopf, 2005)
Serves 6, with leftovers
For the Corned Beef and Vegetables:
One 6-pound corned-beef brisket
2 onions, peeled and halved lengthwise
4 whole cloves
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1/2 bunch thyme
2 chiles de arbol
6 small, trimmed and peeled carrots
9 golf ball-sized turnips, trimmed and cut in half
1 1/4 pounds yellow potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
1 medium green cabbage (about 2 pounds), cut into 6 wedges
For the Parsley-Mustard Sauce:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, for juicing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the corned beef in a large deep pot and cover with cold water by 6 inches. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
2. Poke one clove into each onion half. When the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat and add the onions, bay leaves, thyme, and chiles. Cover the pot with aluminum foil and a tight-fitting lid. Cook the corned beef in the oven 4 to 4 1/2 hours, until it's fork-tender.
3. When it's done, remove the meat from the oven, let it cool a few minutes, and transfer it to a baking sheet. Turn the oven up to 375 degrees F. Return the meat to the oven for about 15 minutes, until it browns and crisps on top. Let the corned beef rest 10 to 15 minutes before slicing it.
4. Add water to the broth in the large corned-beef cooking pot until you have enough liquid to poach the vegetables. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down to medium heat and add the potatoes to the pot. Simmer 5 minutes and then add the cabbage, turnips, and carrots. Simmer over low heat 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove them with a slotted spoon.
5. Make the parsley-mustard sauce: Place the shallots, vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl, and let sit 5 minutes. Pound the parsley with a mortar and pestle or a meat pounder and add it to the shallots. Whisk in the mustard and olive oil, and season with a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of pepper and a pinch more salt.
6. Slice the corned beef against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the meat and vegetables on a warm platter. Pour over a good quantity of the broth, and drizzle with the parsley-mustard sauce. Pass the extra broth and sauce at the table.
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Photos by James Ransom