Was it worth it? Definitely. I'll say that right off the bat.
First off on Friday, I took a look at the packaged, pre-brined corned beef that I picked up for comparison purposes. And then I looked up at the clock and realized I needed to get a move on.
"Simmer approximately 50 minutes per pound…." Um…okay, this brisket was 4.74 lbs, so that means…um…about 4 hours. Okay, we'll put that one in first. I cut open the package and took a look at the contents.
Very pink, and rather fatty on that side, huh? Into the pot it went
covered with water, lid on, burner on high to bring it to a boil, and then down to a simmer.
Once I'd got that started, I took a look at the briskets I'd brined.
Not as bright pink as the other one, but that's okay. They're not gray, at least.
Time to check in with the magazine article….
Remove brisket from brine. Rinse with cold running water. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Wrap corned beef in plastic, cover with foil, and refrigerate.)
I just covered them with plastic wrap and put them back in the fridge, since I'd be cooking them in a few hours.
Time to get everything else ready.
You'll need the following:
4 bay leaves
1 T coriander seeds
2 whole allspice
1 dried chile de arbol, broken in half (I used a dried Thai bird chile – we have tons of them.)
cheesecloth (we have some, somewhere. I used a plain piece of muslin instead.)
12 baby turnips, trimmed, or 3 medium turnips or rutabagas, peeled, quartered (no baby turnips to be found. I bought the smallest I could find and halved them. I used 8.)
8 unpeeled medium white-skinned or red-skinned potatoes (about 3 lbs)
6 medium carrots, peeled (I cut them in half as well)
2 medium parsnips, peeled, cut into 2-inch lengths (I used 4. I like parsnips.)
4 medium onions, peeled, halved through root ends
1 2-lb head of cabbage, quartered (For some reason, I doubled the amount of cabbage. Not sure what I was thinking at the time. Probably wasn't thinking at all.)
And here's what you do:
Place corned beef in very large wide pot.
Add stout (or porter)
and enough water to cover by 1 inch.
Wrap cheesecloth around bay leaves, coriander seeds, allspice, and shile, enclosing completely, and tie with kitchen string to secure. Add spice bag to pot with beef;
bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until beef is tender, about 2 1/4 hours. Transfer beef to large baking sheet.
Okay – here's a picture of the pre-packaged corned beef when it came out of the pot…
And here's a picture of the ones I brined and cooked according to Bruce Aidell's recipes in Bon Appetit:
I covered both pans with foil and put them in a 200 degree oven to keep them warm.
Add turnips and all remaining vegetables to liquid in pot;
bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently until all vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to baking sheet with beef. Return beef to pot and rewarm 5 minutes. (I didn't need to rewarm the beef, as it was already staying warm in the oven.) Discard spice bag.
While the vegetables were cooking, I put out a few things for people to nosh on when they arrived.
Here we have an assortment of Carr's crackers, a piece of smoked Sockeye salmon, a wedge of Wensleydale cheese with cranberries, and a block of aged Irish cheddar.
Bill also bought oysters – 2 dozen – but I was too busy chatting and then slurping down the oysters once he'd shucked them to take any pictures. Sorry.
Cut beef against grain into 1/4-inch thick slices. Arrange beef and vegetables on platter. Serve with Horseradish Cream and Guinness Mustard.
Starting with the potato at twelve o'clock and going clockwise, we've got some of the cabbage, carrots, a half of a turnip, half an onion, the Guinness mustard, the corned beef (the one I brined), Horseradish cream, and parsnips.
People sampled both versions of the corned beef and based on verbal feedback and evidence when the table was cleared, everyone preferred the home-brined corned beef.
It has a distinctive, more complex, spicier flavor than the pre-packaged one. It was just more interesting to eat. I'll definitely make this again.
To recap, here's a shot of everything I'd made for this meal:
I heartily recommend making this corned beef some time. Sure, it's too late to make it for this year's St. Patrick Day dinner, but so what? It'll taste good any day of the week.
And the leftover beef (and you should plan on making enough so that you DO have leftovers) will be nice in sandwich form,
or, my family's favorite – as corned beef hash.
Come back later for that one!