Corned beef and cabbage (AKA New England Boiled Dinner) is a classic St. Patrick's Day and New Year's Eve dish. It's incredibly easy to make, and tastes so much better when made at home.
Try this recipe, and be sure to cook up a pile of root vegetables and cabbage to go along with your meat. They're fabulous cooked in the beef stock!
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Step 1: Boil Meat
Select a package of corned beef from the refrigerated section of your local supermarket. Make sure the meat will fit inside the pot you'll be using.
If you live in New England then you've probably got a choice between pink and gray pieces; go for the gray one, which hasn't been chemically treated to maintain its color. Those of us in the rest of the country are doing well to get our hands on corned beef at all.
Cut open the package, and dump the meat into your large pot. Fill it with cold water enough to cover the meat, and put the pot on to boil. Your corned beef will either come with a seasoning packet, or the meat will have been packed in loose seasonings; either way, make sure the seasonings make it into the pot as well. Don't was the meat or trim off any fat; it just goes straight in.
Keep the pot at a low boil for a couple of hours, or until you can easily stab through the thickest part of the meat with a paring knife. Add more water to keep the meat covered. The cook time will vary depending on size.
You can use a pressure cooker to speed things along if you're pressed for time. My cookbook recommends cooking a chunk of corned beef for an hour at 15psi, but I found this was much longer than I liked, and I haven't tested and optimized timing for the pressure cooker. If I've got time, I prefer to let the meat simmer on the stove all afternoon. The house smells fantastic, it takes no effort besides an hourly water check, and it's impossible to screw up.
When the meat is done, remove it from the pot to cool. Tongs are great for this. Reserve the liquid in the pot- we'll use it next.
Step 2: Select Veggies
Select some good root vegetables. I used about 2 pounds each of turnips, rutabagas, and carrots. You may use potatoes as well, but I find them boring in this context. Beets are to be avoided as they stain the water and the flavor isn't quite complementary.
Get a nice head or two of green cabbage. I usually use two heads, because cabbage is really good cooked this way. If you're unsure, just get a small head and give it a try. I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Step 3: Chop and Boil Veggies
Chop the vegetables into roughly equally-sized chunks. The turnips and rutabagas are usually good cut into 8 or 12 pieces; the carrots 4 or 6. The cabbage will remain intact if you leave the stem on; just trim the end of it, then cut the cabbage in half through the stem. Place the cut half face down, and cut into 3-4 wedges such that each is held together by the stem.
You can boil them in one go or in batches. I boiled all the root vegetables together, which took about 15 minutes; stab them with a fork or knife to check doneness. The cabbage only takes about 5 minutes, so I cooked it last. Your time will vary according to the volume and initial temperature of your broth and veggies, so trust your fork instead of a timer.
If you're cooking the vegetables in batches, use a slotted spoon to scoop them out between batches, leaving as much of the broth and seasoning as possible in the pot.
Step 4: Horseradish Sauce
Horseradish sauce is a standard side for this dish.
Mix a roughly even amount of prepared horseradish and mayonnaise, and taste; if you like it stronger, add more horseradish. If it's too strong, dilute with mayo until you're happy.
Add a dollop of mustard, and some form of pepper: paprika if the horseradish is already too much, chili powder for a mid-range approach, or sriracha chili sauce for extra kick.
Stir, and serve on the side.
Step 5: Slice Meat
Once the meat has cooled, pull out a nice big, sharp knife and a large cutting board.
Trim off the pad of fat from the top of the meat. It's very tasty, but absolutely terrible for you.
Now cut the corned beef into thin slices, cutting against the grain.
Step 6: Serve
Serve as soon as the vegetables are done. If you pile everything up like I've done below, the hot vegetables will re-warm the meat nicely.
This dish is good hot or room temperature; cold too, for some. The meat is definitely good cold, and makes great sandwiches with the extra horseradish sauce.