On Corned Beef
As you might have guessed from the fact that I have just about the fifth most Irish name on the planet (right behind Sean Patrick Flynn), I have Irish blood in me. Of course after seven generations in America, it's been so diluted with English and possibly some Scottish blood that there's almost none left. But, that Y-Chomosome and the last name both came from Ireland. As you also might have guessed that meant that around the middle of March, we would have Corned Beef at some point. No, we did not have cabbage as a rule - I'm not fond of Cabbage anyway. The method I use may be far from traditional, but it has two advantages - it cuts down on the fat content of a low quality cut and it's fast.
What you will need
- Corned Beef - one brisket, any grade. I got the cheapest there was in the store and I can honestly say that I've seen leaner cuts of bacon than this brisket.
- Knife, sharp - I splurged and got a ceramic knife, but most people aren't going to spend that kind of money on cutlery.
- Cutting board
- Frying pan or skillet
What to do
First, subdivide the brisket into rough thirds. Take each piece and remove the slab of fat you will find hanging on one side of the brisket (why do they use such low quality cuts for corned beef anyway?) The amount by which this will reduce the volume of your brisket will vary by the quality of the cut you bought. This halved the volume of mine. Slice the remaining meat portion into ribbons approximately a quarter inch thick. Cut the ribbons in half. Sort the slices of meat by the amount of fat caught in the grain (unless you're feeding a lot of people, in which case you might as well cook it all right now.) If you're like me and not feeding many people, bag up the less tasty looking half and save it for another project.
Lay out the remaining slices in the frying pan. Wait for them to be visibly cooked halfway through, flip and cook the rest of the way. Being cut so thin, this part will go fast. You will note that the classic corned beef flavor is very intense and has not had time to leak out of the meat. Serve with anything you care to put out with it. Oh, and uless you know how to render tallow, toss the fat portions removed in the second step.
This may seem like an inanely simple one, but I've found so many people roast or boil thier corned beef to death that it loses the distinct flavor which is the only thing making up for its artery clogging fat content. I switched to this method after I got tired of pulling a small number of over-boiled meat strands out of a web of pure fat. I never manage to find a good cut which has been corned, it's always the fat-riddled low grade cuts that get the treatment. But everyone always seems to either roast or boil the brisket whole anyway, heedless of the bacon-like slab of fat clinging to it. And don't get me started on the cabbages.
Update - Another Method
I've also found that you can preserve the color and flavor of corned beef by cooking it in a crock pot or other slow cooker. Just add a dash of water to the bottom, set it on low and let it cook for the better part of a day. The results far surpass the flavorless boiling method that's so prevalent.