March 24, 2005

boiled dinner, yum yum

Every March, the markets get in the gray corned beef, and therefore I make boiled dinner. There is not much from the WASPy side of my family that's worthy of a foodslut's repertoire, but this one is top-notch.

The thing to bear in mind is that you need to get gray corned beef, not red. My mother maintains that the red doesn't taste as good, and I tend to agree. Interestingly, my friend who joined us this year for boiled dinner said she normally doesn't like the salty meat when her family makes this dish, but that the meat we had was much better, not as salty and strong. I suspect that this is because we use the gray: the gray has no saltpeter in it. The saltpeter is what keeps the red style from turning gray during its brining time. Sadly, you can almost never get gray corned beef outside of St. Patrick's Day season, and it is even harder to find outside of New England, I am told.

Take large piece of gray corned beef and put in a large pot full of water, lots and lots of water. Add a handful of black peppercorns and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook at least 2 hours. Skim off the crud as it rises. Top off liquid with more water as needed. Once the meat has floated, that seems to be the indicator that it's done, and it's time to add vegetables. Pull out the meat and turn the heat back up to bring the liquid to a boil. I like to use potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, and parsnips, all cut into biggish chunks. Once the veggies are soft and nearly done, after 40 min or so, add wedges of green cabbage. If these are holding together well on their own, just chuck them in, but if they are coming apart you can fix this with a couple of toothpicks stuck in each to hold them together. The cabbage takes 10 or 15 minutes to get nice and soft. Once it's all done, add the meat back in to warm it up.

To serve, fish the meat out and slice against the grain. (Remove any slabs of fat you don't want to eat.) Fish the veggies out of the broth and plate along with the sliced beef. Everything is nicely salted and seasoned by its long bath with the salted meat. Spicy mustard goes well with this dish, as does beer. The leftover broth makes fantastic quick-n-easy soups, so be sure to save it.

Posted by foodnerd at March 24, 2005 08:51 PM

My wife and I were both raised in the Boston area and both with a strong Irish heritage. We were brought up on New England Boiled dinners with either a ham shoulder or GRAY corned beef with the corned beef being the favorite. In 1977 we picked up and moved to the Roanoke Virginia area and bought a small house on 25 acres to raise our kids and all our food. When the first St Patty's day came in the spring of 1978 we went shopping for our corned beef and to our amazement the only thing we could find was the red stuff with all the seasoning already in it. This was not going to do. We were in the middle of raising our first steer for the beef and properly the kids had named him Beefy. When the time came we decided that we were going to corn our own corned beef we had the local custom butcher cut out the brisket into four pieces and here is how we did it. We filled the old timey 20 quart crock pot full of water and poured in enough Kosher salt to make a medium size potato float then, take out the tater and add the meat cover it with a plate that just fits the inside diameter of the crock and put in the fridge for 4 to 5 weeks. and walla, the greatest gray you'll find anywhere. The cons to all this is you have to have a giant fridge or a spare. Oh yeah, my wife and I are purists so we use no peppercorns or bay. two Irish sayings,
"You can always tell an Irishman but you can't tell him much" and "If your lucky enough to be Irish, your lucky enough"

Posted by: Bill MacDermod at March 14, 2007 09:46 PM

Legion Square Market in South Portland, ME is the only place I have found where gray corned beef is available year round. Never use the red stuff. It is red because its treated with a chemical to keep it red. You don't need it and it does effect the taste.

Posted by: Bill at March 19, 2008 04:19 PM
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