When I was a kid, my Mom made “New England Boiled Dinner” fairly frequently, though she generally made it with a picnic ham, as corned beef was a little trickier to come by. Almost everyone I know cooks this dish on St. Patrick’s Day, so I’ve always assumed that it is a traditional Irish dish. It turns out that’s not quite the case, and most folks living in Ireland wouldn’t recognize this bugger at all. Our associating this dish with the Irish has more to do with its adoption into their culture by Irish-Americans, many of whom landed here in New England and have made this dish a staple of their cuisine.
As is tradition, Mom used to cook the whole shebang in one big pot, the veggies after the meat, so that the potatoes, carrots and cabbage all took on the salt-smoke flavor of the ham, yum. My most vivid recollection of the meal was how she used to smash together the carrots and potatoes, thinning the mix a bit with the braising liquid, and topping the pale orange mash with a healthy pat of butter. I used to assume that the mash was in keeping with “Irish” tradition, but as I’ve yet to see a boiled dinner recipe that calls for combining the two, I guess it was just Mom’s way of getting us to eat our carrots. And you know what? It worked.
We cooked this boiled dinner a little differently than she used to, largely due to the fact that we corned and cooked our own beef brisket last week as part of a Charcutepalooza challenge, so the meat just needed to be reheated. Given that, we cooked the potatoes and carrots as we normally would and smashed them together when they were done. The cabbage was braised in some of the highly flavorful braising stock left-over from cooking the meat. This infused the cabbage with all the wonderful flavors of the pickling spice used in the corning process, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, allspice berries, mace, cinnamon, clove, ginger and bay.
This was the first time I’ve cooked a boiled dinner, so it was a totally new experience for the kids. What did they think? The tender corned beef, moistened with a few spoonfuls of braising liquid was a big hit, as was the mash of carrots and potatoes (great idea, Mom!). The cabbage….not so much. They choked down most of it, but only because there was a delicious homemade ricotta cheesecake in the fridge being used as a “clean plate” enticement. My wife and I actually enjoyed the cabbage, as the aromatics from the braising liquid delivered a more flavorful offering than we remember eating as kids.
I will definately be corning some more beef soon, as the hash and boiled dinner that resulted from this little Charcutepalooza endeavor, really satisfied. Anyone have any ideas as to what else we could make with some homemade corned beef? If so, please share your thoughts in the comment section below. Thanks!
Cheers – Steve
- 4-5 pounds corned beef brisket, or plain beef brisket corned using instructions found here (Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing)
- 10 new potatoes, quartered
- 5 large carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
- 2 small heads of cabbage
- Put the brisket in a 6 quart Dutch oven and cover with about an inch of water. If you are using a store bought corned beef brisket and it does not come with its own seasoning packet, add the seasoning mix called for in Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing . Bring to a simmer and then cover, lower the heat until it is barely simmering. Keep at a low simmer for three to four hours or until the meat is tender (a fork goes through easily).
- Remove the meat and set aside tented with foil to keep it warm. Turn up the heat, add the veggies to the pot, and bring the mix to a light boil. Cook until done, about 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of your veggies.
- Remove the carrots and potatoes to a bowl and mash, adding a little of the cooking liquid if you desire. Check for seasoning, and toss in a little butter for a richer flavor. Cut the cabbage into wedges.
- To serve, slice the meat in thin slices against the grain, and serve with the mash and a wedge of cabbage. Pass a nice spicy mustard at the table, and bowl of the braising liquid if you desire.