Corned Beef and Cabbage Day -- better known in some quarters as St. Patrick's Day -- is coming right up. As made-up food holidays go, Corned Beef and Cabbage Day actually makes sense. March 17 is likely the only day of the year you'll be partaking in this fatty-delicious feast.
Oh, during the year you may have a few corned-beef sandwiches, the thin slices piled high on rye. However, the heaping plate of sliced corned beef accompanied by spicy mustard plus cabbage, potatoes and carrots, probably all boiled in beer, is usually a once-a-year experience.
And get this: Corned beef is as American as apple pie. It's not that it doesn't have vague Irish roots, but it just isn't a beloved holiday dish in Ireland.
Food historians believe that the dish was made popular by Irish immigrants in the United States looking for a substitute for their beloved bacon and cabbage. Irish bacon is meatier, more like ham, and is not cooked crisp like the bacon Americans are familiar with. It's also pork.
Corned beef is still a bit of an unknown, despite its ubiquity at this time of year. What does corn have to do with it, anyway?
Nothing, really, if you are thinking of the stuff that grows as high as an elephant's eye. "Corned" means "brined," which is what corned beef is. (Perhaps we should start saying "corned turkey" at Thanksgiving.)
Corned beef is usually beef brisket that has been cured in a brine of saltwater and spices, among them coriander seeds, peppercorns, mustard seeds and whole cloves. You can corn a brisket yourself, but consider instead buying one ready to plop in a slow cooker or Dutch oven of beer.
This recipe includes directions for a creamy horseradish sauce. That and spicy mustard will clear the head of anyone celebrating St. Patrick's Day, Irish or not.
SLOW-COOKER CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE WITH CREAMY HORSERADISH SAUCE
2 stalks celery, halved
1 medium onion, cut in 4 wedges
4 to 6 red potatoes, quartered
1 (4-pound) corned-beef brisket
1 (12-ounce) bottle stout or dark ale
1 tablespoon corned-beef spices or pickling spices (or spices that come with the brisket)
1 medium head cabbage, cut into 6 wedges
Creamy horseradish sauce:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup drained prepared horseradish
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash hot sauce
Grainy or spicy mustard for serving
Place celery, carrots, onion and potatoes in the bottom of a large slow cooker or Crock-Pot. Rinse the corned-beef brisket and place over vegetables. Add the bottle of stout, spices and enough water to just cover the meat. Cover and cook on low for eight to nine hours.
Remove the meat and vegetables from the pot and cover with foil to keep warm. Increase heat to high and cook cabbage until softened but still crispy, 20 to 30 minutes.
To make horseradish sauce, whip cream to soft peaks and then fold in sour cream and horseradish, to taste. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of hot sauce.
Slice brisket across the grain and serve with vegetables, mustard and horseradish sauce. Pass extra cooking liquid at the table.
Serves 4 to 6.
-- Food Network
(Contact Tampa Bay Times food and travel editor Janet K. Keeler at jkeeler(at)tampabay.com.)
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