|Corned Beef and Cabbage - a mid-march treat for everyone.|
All you need to make the dish is the biggest pot in the house, and plenty of room to chop up vegetables. I don't own a huge amount of high-end cookware, but my biggest pot is actually one of the best pieces of cookware I have- a gigantic all-clad pot with a nice thick chunk of metal for a bottom. It's indispensable for it's ability to make all manner of soups, stews, mass quantities of pasta or tomato sauces. The thick bottom makes it a good choice for low-and-slow cooking, and it's big enough to feed a small army. If you have a tight budget for cookware- go for the best quality, biggest pot you can afford. You'll also want a good quality large saute or saucepan, but that's another conversation. With a big pot, large one-pot meals such as corned beef and cabbage become easy. My one pot was able to feed four adults and three young children, and left enough vegetable scraps to keep the family rabbit quiet for the day.
For starters, put a nice big piece of corned beef in your biggest pot. Most stores carry corned beef in vacuum packs. There will probably be a little blood and meat juices in the bag- just put it all in the pot (it's all flavor). If the meat came with a small packet of seasoning, you may as well use that too (it's usually a basic pickling spice blend. If there is no seasoning packet- don't worry it takes very little to make the dish work- the meat contains a large amount of flavor on it's own, and only needs a little help to pass it's flavor on to the whole pot.
|Red-Skinned potatoes get a quick rinse before going in the pot|
|Big chunky carrots go great in most slow-cooked meals...|
|There's always room at the party for a little onion.|
|Coriander seed pairs well with beef and does well in long-slow cooking dishes.|
|Cabbage, lots and lots of cabbage...|
When you start getting close to dinner time give the broth and some of the cabbage a taste, and adjust your salt and pepper if needed. Turn off the heat about 15-20 minutes before serving. Fish out all the vegetables and potatoes with a slotted spoon, and let the meat rest in the remaining broth for about 15 minutes- this gives the meat a chance to unclench itself a little, and absorb some of that nice broth it's been stewing in all day, and seems to help keep the meat from drying out as soon as it comes out of the pot. Once the meat has had it's relaxing swim in the pot, take it out and cut it up. Some people like theirs sliced into thin deli slices, I prefer mine cut into chunky, steak like slices- so slice it however you feel appropriate. If the meat looks a little dry, pour a little of the cooking liquid on top to help keep it moist. The liquid is tasty enough that you may just pour it on anyway, and any extra can easily be re-purposed as a soup base.
|Corned beef and cabbage dinner served.|
This dish just has it all - lots of flavor, filling, makes enough for the whole family (with leftovers), is mostly inexpensive considering the sheer amount of food, and is extremely easy to do well. Corned beef and cabbage exemplifies everything that makes simple comfort foods great.
One odd piece of trivia to know is that corned beef and cabbage is really an Irish-American dish, rather than a native Irish one. The closest original in Ireland is Bacon and Cabbage- which sounds great, by the way. Much the way we Italian-Americans have Spaghetti and Meatballs as our most ubiquitous comfort food- despite the fact that in Italy, spaghetti and meatballs may be served in the same meal, but never paired as a single dish. I think that Corned Beef and Cabbage plays the same role to the Irish-American that Spaghetti and Meatballs does for the Italian-American- a dish based closely on traditions brought over from the mother country, but twisted a little to suit new surroundings- something (relatively) new that's still steeped in a long tradition.