Corned beef with a difference

March 12, 1997|By Margaret M. Johnson | Margaret M. Johnson,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

Cooking for a crowd to celebrate St. Patrick's Day is a lot like cooking for a Super Bowl party except that everyone's rooting for the same team -- the Irish.

Because meals on March 17 are often celebratory post-parade events and not of the intimate dinner party variety, recipes need to be both easy to prepare and manageable to serve. And, of course, they've got to be wholesome and homey like the "old sod" itself.

One of the easiest main course meals is also among the most traditional Irish dishes -- corned beef and cabbage (even though it's strictly an Irish-American invention).

Double or triple the recipe to suit the number of servings. With a piece of oak-smoked wild Irish salmon, some do-ahead appetizers, a loaf or two of some hearty bread, and Irish coffee for dessert, let the party begin!

Chef Tom Ryan of Boston's Durgin Park restaurant at Faneuil Hall has been preparing his famous corned beef and cabbage for 35 years. Sometimes called Yankee or Irish style, the brisket is cured with salt and brine. It produces a gray corned beef, unlike the red, sodium nitrite-cured corned beef you see in supermarket meat cases.

"To be sure you have enough salt in the brine, put a potato in the water. If it floats, you've got enough salt. If not, add more," Ryan says. The result is a mild but flavorful meat that is the centerpiece of the traditional boiled dinner.

Durgin park corned beef and cabbage

Makes 14 to 16 servings

1 pound kosher salt

1 gallon water

1 fresh brisket of beef (7 to 8 pounds)

6 whole bay leaves

8 to 10 black peppercorns

1 large head cabbage, cored and quartered

1 bunch carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

1 large turnip, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes

8 large potatoes, peeled and halved

Mix together salt and water in large nonreactive pot. Add brisket and allow to cure at least 48 hours. (Beef must be completely covered so double the brine recipe if necessary.)

Drain meat and add fresh water to cover along with bay leaves and peppercorns. Cook, covered, over medium-high heat 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until fork tender. During last 45 minutes of cooking time, add cabbage, carrots and turnip. If size of pot allows, add potatoes as well. (Alternately carrots, turnip and potatoes can be boiled separately). Allow beef to cool down 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

Pub Date: 3/12/97

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