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Corned Beef And Cabbage - The Right Way

By Erin in Food on Mar 17, 2006 12:01PM

2006_03_cornedbeef.jpgGrowing up Irish in Chicago affords one many things - an unusually high alcohol tolerance; an appreciation for music that includes a bagpipe, pennywhistle and a bodhran; and finally a well-cooked corned beef and cabbage.

Now it's no secret to the Irish among us that corned beef and cabbage is as an Americanized dish as a burger and fries, but somehow it just doesn't seem like the high holiday without them. While it's true that its origins come from our Irish ancestors who sailed over here from the ol' sod, that's only because it served as a somewhat acceptable substitute for the Irish bacon many ate at home. And that's only because they learned about it from their Jewish friends from the neighborhood in New York City in the late 1800s.

Chicagoist has eaten plenty of Irish bacon from many a table in Ireland. We can tell you without compunction that we prefer our corned beef. The Irish are known for plenty of things, and our culinary delights are not one of them.

But if you're like Chicagoist, and are loathe to hit the bars tonight with every Paddy McWannabe wearing green beads and a "F*ck Me I'm Irish" tshirt, you're going to want to hunker down at home and cook some corned beef, steam some cabbage, boil some potatoes and settle in for your annual viewing of The Quiet Man, a movie that's considered required viewing for anyone with a drop of Irish coursing through her veins. If for no other reason, it contains this line:

"When I drink whiskey? I drink whiskey. When I drink water? I drink water."

This recipe is by no means a science, nor is it perfect. Just the same, it's how Chicagoist's family has been preparing corned beef since we were wee. However, because Chicagoist was ill-prepared this week, you're going to be eating a late meal or fixing this up tomorrow. It'll be worth it. Trust us.

The Corned Beef

1) Chicagoist is going to tell you right now that if you haven't picked up your brisket by now, chances are you're going to have a tough go at finding one. Never fear: in a pinch, we're fans of the Vienna corned beef brisket and if you hop on over to their store at 2501 N Damen Ave., chances are probably good you can pick one up.

2) By the time you read this it may already be too late to have corned beef for dinner. Sorry. We were busy this week, people. But if you get to cracking right after work, or on your lunch break, you may be in good shape for some mighty tasty sandwiches to ward off your hangover.

The most important thing to cooking corned beef is the SLOW COOK. What you'll need:

*A roasting pan or Crock Pot
*A tight lid or aluminum foil
*A bay leaf
*Chopped onion - Chicagoist isn't a huge fan of onions so we only put in about half of a yellow onion
*Sliced garlic - add according to your preference for garlic, but we like to add about four cloves
*MSG - Chicagoist probably puts in about a tablespoon of the MSG. Cooking purists may argue the point, but it works for us.
*Mustard Seed - 1 tablespoon, maybe another half.
*Peppercorns - 1 tablespoon, maybe another half.

- Put the corned beef in the pot or pan with the fat-side up. If you're not familar with corned beef, there won't be any confusion once you get your hands on the brisket.
- Fill with enough water to just about cover the brisket and toss in all of the ingredients
- Tigtly cover and throw in the oven at 200 to 225 degrees for six to eight hours, depending on the size of the brisket. You can speed up the process - though we don't recommend it - by setting the oven to 350 and cooking for two- to three-hours instead.

When your brisket is done, cut across the grain through the long fibers. It'll be easier to chew that way. The meat should still be stupidly tender, but it's just makes for a nicer look. If you're going for sandwiches, Chicagoist recommends picking up some pumpernickel bread and horseradish. Strong horseradish, that is.

The Cabbage

1) For all that is good and holy, don't ever boil cabbage. Chicagoist can think of nothing more revolting than boiled cabbage. That said, steam it. Cut up your head of cabbage into quarters and steam it for about five minutes, if that. Just get it to the point where it's cooked, yet still crunchy.

2) The best thing about cabbage is the accouterment. Get some thick-sliced bacon, we use about six slices, depending on the size of our group, and cook it to a crisp. Once we've drained the grease, we crumble it up into little pieces and set aside.

3) Take about, oh, half of a brick of Kerrygold butter and melt it down. You might want to make sure you do this right before serving dinner because nothing says "Yuck" more than room-temperature butter.

4) Plate the cabbage and drizzle with butter, apple-cider vinegar and top with bacon crumbles.

There you have it. The Chicagoist way of preparing corned beef and cabbage. It's simple, disgustingly unhealthy, but one of our favorite meals of the year. Chicagoist recommends serving this meal with your favorite whiskey or stout.

Slainte mhath!