Sun, 16 May 2004 01:23:11
Recipe: Peasant food Part 1: Boiled Dinner
I’m a fat guy. Which obviously means I like to eat. And what, praytell, does a fat guy like to eat?
Peasant food. Simple, hearty dishes, usually the one-pot kinds. I love to cook things that take few ingredients, but provide a lot of flavor. And nothing says peasant like the old Irish standby, boiled dinner, AKA corned Beef & Cabbage.
My recipe could not be easier. First off, you need to have a need to feed either many, or a few for many days. Then, you need a big pot. 20 quarts is good.
Get two corned beef briskets. Now, I have no high-end meat source around here, so I go to the grocery store and buy the kosher briskets with the little flavor pouch seasoning packets. The brand escapes me. But, if you have a great brisket hookup, use it. The better the brisket the better the dinner.
If you can’t get those little pouches of seasoning with the brisket, it’s easy to duplicate the flavoring: it’s pickling spices. I keep some around just in case. The spices are essential to the broth flavor, though, so don’t go leaving them out!
Toss the briskets in the pan and cover them with water, with a couple inches to spare. Add the pickling spices. Measurements? We don’t need no stinking measurements! If I had to guess, it’s two tablespoons? Start boiling. When they reach a boil, turn the heat WAY down. You may want to skim off any cooked blood at this point.
Prepare the veggies. You want good potatoes, but not necessarily boiling potatoes. I use Yukons because they add flavor and get nice and soft while maintaining their shape. You can use whatever you like. You also need carrots, onions and cabbage. That’s it.
Hack up the veggies. Bite-sized, but still pretty large pieces. I usually use about three pounds of potatoes, two pounds of carots, two to three large yellow onions and two large heads of green cabbage. You’ll know you have the right amount because the veggies will threaten to overwhelm the pot. :)
OK, order. Cabbage takes for-freaking-ever to get tender. I usually put the cabbage in about now, and plan to add the rest of the vegetable in about 90 minutes. Just remember that the cabbage will take up about a third the space as it cooks, so stir once in awhile to make sure the hot water is reaching all of the leaves. You may need to add a little more water, but not too much. The less water the more concentrated and flavorful the broth will be.
90 minutes later, add everything else, as well as some fresh-ground pepper and some fresh garlic (my own addition, garlic and corned beef work wonders together!). Not too much though, you don’t want to upset the corned beef/cabbage fusion.
Keep the heat low to medium low and stir every 15-20 minutes. It can take from two to five hours to finish, depending on your stove, etc. The longer the better, to be honest, you cannot overcook this. :)
After two hours or so, taste the broth. It usually never needs much salt, since there is so much in the brisket, but you never know. Now is the time. This dish is a salt-lover’s paradise...it can take it, trust me. All that meat and starch and cabbage? If you can take it, the dish can hold up. :)
You’ll know it’s done when the thickest stalk portions of cabbage are soft and translucent. If you find a crispy one, keep cooking.
This dish is so simple, but so good. Sometimes I think it’s the thing that won my wife’s heart, and she HATED cabbage when we met. She wasn’t too fond of corned beef either, since all she ever had was cold, boiled corned beef slices with mustard. Now I get requests all the time. “When are you making corned beef again? C’moooonnnn...”
BTW, this dish is best served in extremely oversized soup bowls and microwaves GREAT for leftovers.