Well, we meant to post this recipe before St. Paddy’s day. However, the 17th came and went and we neglected to post it. Then we intended to put it up a couple of days after, while corned beef could still be readily found in local grocery stores. But alas, we neglected to do so. Weeks passed, Jake and Brad moved back to France for the Spring and Summer months, and now here we are just in time for you to plan your feast for St. Paddy’s 2013! Imagine, if you please, that it’s March of next year…
The annual obligation to cook corned beef and cabbage has arrived. While no self-respecting Irish person would be caught dead cooking corned beef and cabbage on March 17th, we in America (encouraged no doubt by the Corned Beef Industry and some kind of misguided affinity with the Irish) feel an obligation to do so. (Disclaimer: My mum was born in Waterford.) It’s actually not a bad dish, especially if you cook it right, make colcannon to go with it, and use some of the “stock” to make a hearty soup for the next day.
One of the unfortunate things about blogging is that if you’re making a dish for a special occasion and want to photograph it, you either have to make it ahead and reheat it or else post it when it’s too late for anyone checking the blog to be inspired. So maybe you want to cook corn beef at a time other than St. Patrick’s day or else remember the colcannon and soup when it comes around next year.
This is not a problem with cooking Irish Stew which is really the national dish of Ireland and which benefits from being cooked ahead. And of course it’s just perfect for the dying days of winter.
Corned Beef with Colcannon
For the Corned Beef:
3-4 lb. corned beef
One medium onion, peeled and halved
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
2 small turnips, peeled and quartered
1 leek, white part only (optional)
Trim off some of the excess fat. Put it in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Skim off the scum, add the little package of spices it usually comes with, and turn the heat to low. How long you cook it will depend on its size, but it will probably take 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Check it from time to time. About 30 minutes before it’s cooked, add the onion, the carrots, turnips, parsnips and the leek, if you have it. If you don’t like turnips and parsnips, you can still make the soup without them. Remove the corn beef to a platter, cover with foil and let rest 15 minutes. Slice into 1/4″ slices, place in the center of the platter and surround it with about half the carrots, parsnips and turnips.
For the Colcannon
Colcannon is apparently served mainly at Halloween in Ireland but it fits so perfectly with corned beef that I have adopte it for the occasion. Not surprisingly, the Irish have lots of ways of cooking potatoes and this is one of them. It’s a mixture of creamy mashed potatoes and cabbage with lots of butter (which of course you can cut down on if you choose).
4 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cabbage, sliced fairly thin (or you can use kale)
1/2 cup milk, warmed
1/4 – 1/2 stick butter
4 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley
Salt and pepper
Boil the potatoes in salted water until cooked, 15-20 minutes. Put them through a food mill or mash them until smooth, adding the warmed milk and half the butter. Separately boil the cabbage for about eight minutes, drain it well and pulse it a few times in a food processor (or chop it finer). Add it to the potatoes, along with the green onions and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pile it in a serving dish, making an indentation in the center into which you slip the remaining butter. You may need to pop it into a microwave for a minute or two so that you can serve it hot with the corned beef and vegetables.
For the soup:
When you’ve removed the corned beef and half the veggies from the cooking pot, check the “stock” for saltiness. Depending on how salty the corned beef was and your salt tolerance, you may decide that it’s too salty to use. But if not, get rid of about half the stock and blend up the remaining vegetables with the stock, adding enough water or milk to make a smooth cream. Then, assuming you have some leftovers of corned beef and colcannon the next day, blend the potato/cabbage mixture into the soup, chop up the remaining corned beef, adding it to the soup and voila!, you have a perfect leftover meal.
This celebrated – and delicious – dish started out as a meal for hard times, composed mainly of potatoes and scraps of mutton. But as mutton is not widely available these days, even in Ireland, it has evolved into a simple lamb stew. Some add carrots, even turnips and parsnips, but I prefer it in its pure form with just lamb, potatoes and onions. These ingredients are layered in a heavy casserole and slow-cooked in the oven, allowing the flavors to meld and the cook to walk away and two hours later to have a mouthwatering meal.
6 smallish Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 pounds lamb shoulder, bones removed and cut into 1″ cubes
Salt and pepper
A few springs of fresh thyme, about a tablespoon
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Layer about a third of the potatoes in the bottom of an oven casserole, then half the onions, followed by all the lamb. Season well with salt, pepper and the thyme. Continue with the rest of the onions and the potatoes, seasoning as you go. The reason why you want a thicker layer of potatoes on top is that the bottom layer will mostly disintegrate, forming the body of the sauce, while the ones on top will mostly retain their shape. Pour over water to cover by two-thirds(about 2 cups). You can now either bring it to the boil on the top of the stove and then put it in the pre-heated oven or, if your casserole doesn’t like direct heat, just pop it straight into the oven. Check after an hour and reduce the heat if it’s bubbling too rapidly. It should take about 1-1/2 hours by the first method and up to a half hour longer by the second.
You can serve the dish at once, bubbling hot from the casserole, or reheat it the next day when it will be even more flavorful.