WARREN, NJ - It begins in a half hour - the week-long celebration of St. Patrick's Day at TAP Central in East Brunswick. First, quick stop at the Brunswick Grove for a pint of Guinness Extra Stout. (I once made the poor fashion choice of purchasing a t-shirt with that product name written on it. Not good.) We have sorted out our shopping lists for the annual event we will hold next Saturday here on our own little of spot of green in Central New Jersey.
I will prepare a full meal for about 50 people. 10 corned beefs (beeves?) at least, cabbage, potatoes, colcannon, carrots, soda bread, Kosher "new" pickles, rye bread, mustard/horseradish sauce, shepherd's pie, home-made jam from our summer CSA will be the centerpiece foods. Folks will chip in either Irish or otherwise green appetizers and desserts. Of course, there will be Irish coffee and maybe a few pints of Guinness or "fizzy American beer." Yeah, right.
We are Irish and Jewish here at TAP Central, so corned beef appears often on our table. However, judging by the sales at Shop-Rite and elsewhere, corned beef may be a once-a-year food event for many people. Need an Irish hand to help you glorify this annual garlicky, salty pink entree? Let's go!
1. Buy a good one. Take advantage of the sales and do your best to buy a good-quality brisket.
2. Take it out of the bag in the sink and give it a good rinse. Take the chance to cut away most (but not all) of any extra fat. (Expect your corned beef to shrink by about 50%) Save the bag of spices. Dry the beef with a paper towel.
3. Prepare your cooking pot! In the bottom of a large stove-top pot (pasta?) or crock-pot, layer 1 roughly chopped onion, 2 chopped carrots, 3-4 chopped ribs of celery, the contents of the spice packet, a half teaspoon of ground black pepper, and 1 bottle of Guinness. (Adding beer to the cooking liquid removes some of the saltiness of the corned beef, while also giving a deeper flavor. Besides, you will then have the happy problem of finding something to do with the other 5 bottles from your six-pack!)
4. Set the beef on top and cover with with fresh water. Cover the pot. Set heat on medium/low and cook for four hours. In crock-pot on low takes the 7-8 hours. Do this before work, and come home to a house that smells like a deli. You will be ravenous.
5. While your beef is cooking, try your hand at preparing colcannon, a traditional and tasty Irish "mash" of cabbage, potatoes, leeks and butter. Peel and slice a few carrots and set them to boil. Serve them with a little butter, salt, and New Jersey honey for a colorful and tasty side dish.
6. There is no need for corned beef to be rubbery or stringy. Cook it as you would a pot roast until it is as tender as you like. (In our EB TAP family, we call this style of cooking "Florentine," after our grandmother Florence Pressman who put a pot on low or in the oven at 250 and just let it cook all day. There's no rush! Besides, you have those 5 bottles of Guinness to keep you occupied!)
7. Remove corned beef from cooking liquid and allow to rest on your cutting board for a while. Discard the cooking liquid.
8. Slice your delicious corned beef and serve with your colcannon and carrots. Accompany with rough, brown mustard (No Dijon, please. Far too winey.)
9. Be Irish for the evening, at least. Remember, smiling is required!
10. Irish soda bread recipe tomorrow!