I love corned beef and always buy a few extra when they go on sale at St. Patrick’s Day. I keep them in the freezer for delicious sandwiches all year. The only part of corned beef I’ve never liked was emptying the big pot full of greasy cooking water. Certainly, it can’t be just poured down the drain, so I’d take it outside into a brushy area far enough from the house to not attract vermin. Then I had to wash the greasy pot. Ugh.
Last year, Jacques Pepin casually mentioned cooking corned beef sous-vide. Eureka! Problems all solved and corned beef is more often on the table. It’s totally simple and I’ve never had a package leak. Here’s how you do it.
Get out a 6- to 8-quart, stainless or enamel pot. Do not open the package! Be careful to not damage the plastic in any way. If the corned beef is frozen, drop it in to defrost overnight. In the morning, fill the pot with hot water. Put it on a burner with high heat and bring to a slow boil. Turn down the heat a little, keeping the water at a simmer
Simmer the packet for 3 hours, checking from time to time that the packet is still floating in the water. When the time is up, turn off the heat and let the corned beef rest in the cooling water. Then pour the water down the drain.
When the package is cool enough to comfortably handle, cut it open over a big bowl. Pull out the meat, scraping off any loose pieces of undesirable fat. To dispose of the fat and brine, I put it in a plastic bag, toss in a few paper towels to stabilize it and then put it in the garbage. Your corned beef is completely cooked and ready to heat for a delicious meal or to chill for sandwiches.
If you planned the traditional Irish feast with cabbage, slice the cabbage and wilt it nicely in a covered pan with any liquid from the packet and some of the fat. Add some small par-boiled potatoes, bake a loaf of soda bread and offer a block of good Irish butter. Slainte.
My favorite leftover corned beef meal is hash. Homemade corned beef hash is nothing like the canned stuff you may have had.
• Half a cooked corned beef, about 1 ½ pounds
• 2 large baking potatoes or equivalent
• 1 extra-large onion
• a little cooking oil
• sea salt and freshly ground pepper
• 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
• ½ cup bottled chili sauce, more to taste
1. Peel and cut the onion in about ½ inch dice. Bake or steam the potatoes. Cool them, peel and then cut into about ½-inch dice.
2. Begin to sauté the onions, cooking until they are transparent but not browned, adding in a little of the good fat from the meat. Yes, I know: fat! But fat is flavor and it forms a bit of sauce. Drop in the potatoes and stir. Salt and pepper generously.
3. Cut the meat into ½-inch cubes, leaving a little of the fat on, dropping some fat into the pan to melt into the onion and potato mix. Add the Chili Sauce and the Worcestershire Sauce and stir to mix thoroughly.
4. Cook for a bit, stirring and tossing until the hash is hot all the way through and breaking up some. Taste, add salt or chili sauce if you like.
Some people love hash topped with a poached egg for breakfast or supper. I love it for dinner with buttered cut corn. To freeze hash, portion out into sandwich bags; tuck the bags into a freezer bag. It freezes very well for a few months, at least until you cook another corned beef.
Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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