Roberto and I decided to celebrate my Irish heritage with that traditional American immigrant dish, Corned Beef and Cabbage (the dish was transformed when it crossed the water). I’d never made it before and started researching. The traditional recipe involves hours of boiling, which frankly just sounded boring. It was time for 21st century twist, but how would I bring this centuries old dish into the digital age?
Initially, I planned to use this great recipe from Elise at Simply Recipes for baked corned beef and sautéed cabbage but it turned out that our day was going to be busier than expected. We needed a recipe we could assemble quickly and forget about while it cooked. Fortunately, slow cooker recipes abound. Unfortunately, very few agree on any thing other than the amazing tenderness that can be achieved from cooking a brisket of corned beef for hours and hours. Both the recipes and the comments sections offered various theories about whether beer helped and if so, which brand; when the cabbage should or shouldn’t be added and how the food should be layered.
Here’s what I did:
- 2.25 lbs. corned beef brisket
- 10 cloves
- 1/3 cup sweet hot honey mustard
- 2 tbs. brown sugar
- 1/3 cup bourbon
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 lb. bag baby carrots
- 8-10 red potatoes, quartered
- 1/2 cabbage, sliced in wedges or however you like it
- 2 small onions, thickly sliced
- Prepare the slow cooker.
- Trim the fat from the corned beef.
- Add the cloves to the top of the corned beef.
- Mix the mustard & brown sugar, then slather on top of the corned beef.
- Place the corned beef in the slow cooker.
- Pour the bourbon and water into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour.
- Remove the meat and layer the slow cooker with the carrots and then the potatoes.
- Return the meat to the slow cooker and add the onions and cauliflower to the top. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours until meat is tender.
The hour of cooking on high probably isn’t necessary if you’d rather prep your meal and leave it all day. According to Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker, my guide to that magic ceramic pot, one hour of cooking on high equals two hours of cooking on low. Giving the meat a head start allowed me and Roberto to pull the whole meal together within our time frame, but I’d love to try this as a full day recipe and let it simmer for seven or eight hours on low.
When the hour was up, I pulled the brisket out of the slow cooker and we layered in the potatoes and carrots, then added the meat on top of that. However, we broke a golden rule of slow cooker cuisine by packing nearly every inch of the slow cooker with food. The usual practice is to leave at least an inch and ideally more space since it’s the steam and the fully surrounded cooking element that make the slow cooker work so well. Yet in this case, it worked out perfectly. The cabbage and onion were nicely steamed, still crunchy but flavorful. The carrots were firm and the potatoes were perfect. There was just the right amount of liquid, a bit runny but tinged with a balanced mix of mustard, bourbon and that hint of clove. Plenty of mustard also stayed on the brisket, and Roberto kept the bottle at the table as a supplement.
It was delicious, the perfect meal for a mid-March evening of snow. Enjoy! Let me know how your kitchen adventures go…