In Boston, St. Patrick's Day is a big deal. The parade in South Boston is always an event and draws a huge crowd from Boston, the surrounding area and across the country. Of course every bar in town is serving corned beef and cabbage as part of the celebration, along with the beer which is flowing pretty well also. So get in the spirit and make corned beef and cabbage for your St. Patty's Day celebration!
This dish is also known as a New England Boiled Dinner and comprises corned beef, potatoes, carrots, onions and sometimes root vegetables like turnips, rutabegas or parsnips. The corned beef can be the kind you find in your local grocery store or one that has been corned by a local purveyor, like at the K & 8th Street Market in South Boston. This type of corned beef is sometimes called gray corned beef because they do not use Nitrite in the "corning" process like the commercial vendors and that is what gives it that pink color.
Commercial Corned Beef
Corned beef has nothing to do with corn. The term comes from the process they used to use for preserving meat which was to rub it with large crystals of salt that resembled corn kernels and then letting it cure for a period of time. You can do it yourself at home if you have enough room in the refrigerator. However, today most of the people that make their own corned beef use a brining process which is soaking the meat in a salt water solution to accomplish the pickling process.
And you will probably notice that there are two cuts of corned beef, the Flat Cut and the Point Cut. The Flat Cut tends to be leaner while the Point Cut tends to be fattier. If you like nice slices of corned beef, use the flat cut. The corned beef pictured below in this recipe is a Flat Cut Corned Beef.
So whatever kind of corned beef you decide to cook it is all good. And this is a relatively easy dish to make. It is very forgiving and will feed a large crowd if you have a big enough pot. This recipe is accomplished by boiling the corned beef in a pot on the stovetop, thus the term New England Boiled Dinner. I like to do it for about 2 3/4 hours because I prefer the corned beef to hold together and not fall apart when you slice it. And you can cook the vegetables in the cooking liquid like I do in this recipe, or in a separate pot with just water or stock, or you can even roast the vegetables in the oven and serve them that way.
The vegetables can be what you like although traditionally it will always include potatoes, onion and cabbage. I like carrots and also the root vegetables to be included as well, both of which are frequently part of a New England Boiled Dinner . But you do have some latitude here so put in what you like.
Make sure you cook a corned beef that is as big as what will fit in the pot so you have leftovers for the day after St. Patty's day for your Corned Beef Hash
. It will help nurse you back to health after all that celebrating! So let's get cooking and have a safe and fun St. Patrick's Day wherever you are. Enjoy, or if you're Irish, Slainte!
Corned Beef and Cabbage (or New England Boiled Dinner)
1. Rinse the corned beef.
Corned Beef in the Package with the Spice Packet
2. Add it to a large dutch oven fat side up. Enameled cast iron, like Le Crueset, works very well here.
Corned Beef in a Large Enameled Cast Iron Pan
3. Cover it with water by about 1 inch.
4. Bring it just to a boil, reduce the heat, cover it partially and let it cook for 15 minutes.
Foam on Top of the Water After 7 Minutes
5. After 15 minutes, skim the foam off the top of the water.
Foam on the Water after 15 Minutes Before Skimming
Water after Skimming Off the Foam
6. Add the spices to the Pot. I use a tea strainer to keep the seeds from getting all mixed up with everything. You can also just wrap them in a piece of cheesecloth or just toss them into the water not wrapped at all. They certainly won't hurt anything.
Spice Packet with the Tea Strainer
Tea Strainer in the Pot
7. Bring the water to a simmer, cover the pot and cook the corned beef for about 2 1/2 hours, checking the pot occasionally to make sure it is just at a low boil.
8. About 10 minutes before the corned beef is done, if I am using whole onions I will put them in the pot with the corned beef for those last 10 minutes. Also at this time, preheat the oven to 200° F.
9. Remove the corned beef and put it in a 9" x 13" casserole dish and cover with foil. Place it in the preheated oven while the vegetables are cooking. At this point, if you are going to be saving some of the corned beef for later, you can cut that piece off and put it on a plate and cover it loosely with foil until it cools. Then wrap it in foil and store it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for several months.
10. Depending on how you like your vegetables, you can use small or large pieces and adjust your cooking time accordingly. I like to use smaller potatoes and leave them whole but if they are larger I will cut them in half. For carrots and turnips I cut them in 1" pieces. For onions I like to leave them whole and add them about 10 minutes before the potatoes and carrots. For the cabbage I like to quarter it and cook it that way and then before serving either cut it in chucks or just pull the leaves apart so everyone can get a little or a lot.
Small Red Potatoes
Onion and Turnip Before Prep
Cut Carrots Ready to Go
Turnips Cut into Chunks
11. After removing the corned beef, add the potatoes, onions, carrots and root vegetables to the liquid and cook for 10 minutes. The onion has already been in the broth cooking for about 10 minutes at this point.
Adding the Vegetables to the Broth
12. Cut the cabbage into wedges and remove the solid core. Add it to the pot and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked to your liking. I tend to prefer some bite to the vegetables rather than having them be too soft but everyone has their preferences. And there will be long discussions (over beer of course) as to whether the cabbage should be lightly cooked so it still has a little crunch to it or cooked until it melts in your mouth like butter.
Cabbage Cut into Quarters
Adding the Cabbage to the Broth
13. Remove the vegetables to a sheet pan or other wide platter to let them cool a little bit and stop the cooking process.
14. Remove the meat from the oven and slice it across in thin slices and arrange the slices on a platter. Place the vegetables around the meat and serve.