Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why is it called corned beef if it has nothing to do with corn?

This question has always puzzled me. I get that it's brined with coarse salt (referred to as "corns" or grains) but that doesn't seem close enough for me to warrant the name. Then I tell myself to shut up and eat it. 

It is probably no surprise to those who know me that I like tradition. On every St. Patrick's Day, I do corned beef and cabbage, or a "New England Boiled Dinner." I like it this way. I don't like to mess with tradition. That said, I look more forward to the morning after than the corned beef dinner itself. I like corned beef, but I love the much-criticized corned beef hash. Let me make you all aware, this corned beef hash recipe is nothing like the canned dog food slop. It is salty and rich, and positively divine for a weekend breakfast. I begin with the basic “New England Boiled Dinner” recipe. Corned beef braises for several hours, resulting in tender fall-apart meat. Cabbage, potatoes and carrots boil in the broth. Voila, flavorful vegetables!

I like to use red potatoes for some aesthetic reason; I feel that the colors are prettier on the plate. I prefer to cook everything in a Dutch oven rather than a slow cooker; slow cookers tend to boil everything into a mush. With a Dutch oven, the end result is separately cooked meat and vegetables that actually keep their shape. The corned beef hash is a morning-after recipe, as it makes use of the leftover meat. Topping a mass of tangled beef and potatoes with a perfectly poached egg is my idea of a fabulous breakfast. If poaching isn’t your thing, fried eggs would also be perfect with the hash. 

Basic Corned Beef Dinner
Serves 6 

1 corned beef brisket, about 4 pounds (with seasoning packet)
3 cups beef broth
1 medium onion, cut in 6 to 8 wedges
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1/2 to 3 pounds new potatoes, washed and quartered
4 large carrots, halved and cut into 3-inch lengths
1 small head green cabbage, cored and cut into 6 wedges  

Put the corned beef in a 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven; add beef broth, the contents of the seasoning packet, and add water just until beef is covered. Add garlic and onion. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours. Remove the corned beef to a platter, cover with foil, and keep warm. Place a heavy pot on top of foil to weigh down meat for easier slicing. Skim fat from the broth and add the potatoes and carrots to the broth. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. Add cabbage wedges and continue cooking for about 20 minutes or until cabbage and vegetables are tender. Discard the broth, reserving the vegetables. Slice the corned beef and serve with the vegetables and a Guinness.  

Corned Beef Hash
Serves 4 

6-7 slices leftover corned beef, shredded with a fork
2-3 red potatoes, boiled and cut into 1 inch pieces
½ onion, diced
2 tablespoon vegetable oil  
4 eggs, cooked to your liking 

Combine meat, potatoes and onions in a small bowl with one of tablespoon oil. Heat remaining oil in a medium skillet. When oil is hot, pour meat-potato mixture into skillet and flatten with spatula, pressing out moisture and squishing the potatoes. Cook for 4-5 minutes until thoroughly browned and crisp, and then flip. It is easier to flip sections at a time. To serve, top with a fried or poached egg and enjoy!