Corned Beef & Cabbage

Here in Savannah, St. Patrick’s Day is kind of a big deal. The city boasts the largest parade in the country, and people flood this town by the thousands. If you don’t mind a crowd, enjoy people watching, lot’s of bagpipes, and lax open container laws, then you should add Savannah St. Pat’s Parade to your bucket list. However, if you are daunted by overt drunkeness, lack of parking, and over priced hotel rooms….this may not be the scene for you!

Corned Beef & Cabbage

The handful of times I’ve cooked corned beef, I started with pre-brined meat – you know, the shrink wrapped cut of brisket that’s swimming in red slime and comes with a convenient flavor pack? Have you read the ingredients list on that packaging? If not, then don’t…it’s disgusting. This year I decided to step up my corned beef game by doing my own pickling brine. So on Friday morning I started looking at recipes, most of which want you to brine the meat for up to ten days. Ten days!? Damn, and I thought I was planning ahead…

Brined Brisket

Tyler Florence to the rescue with a 5-star recipe whose brining instructions are “overnight or as long as 10 days.” Perfect.  I’ve got a few hours to spare now… My brisket choices were slim – I could choose between a 10 pound full cut of meat, or small 1.5 pound portions. I went with two of the smaller pieces and picked one flat end (leaner, tougher) and one point (fattier, more tender) for a total of 2 and 3/4 pounds of meat.

Get your brine and meat in a large ziplock bag, and forget about it in the fridge. The longer you can marinate the meat, the more pickled and flavorful it will be. Before you are ready to start cooking, drain and rinse the meat.

Braising Brisket

Since I’ve previously used the pre-brined brisket, I’ve always used the package cooking instructions (and the pitiful flavor pouch….). Typically the package wants you to do everything on the stove top – but Tyler says to put it in the oven. I’m going with the oven – just put the lid on, pop it in, and come back in 3 hours. No baby sitting to make sure the simmer is correct, and no temptation to peak at it (I get paranoid and feel the need to look every half hour…) I was a little disappointed that Tyler added only water to the braising liquid. Come on, it’s St. Patrick’s Day – a can of Guinness needs to be present in this meal (and no, I’m not counting the one I’m drinking…)

Corned Beef

As for serving this beefy goodness, cabbage is a must. The original recipe wants you to cook the cabbage along with the meat – but I am not into mushy cabbage. So instead I went with a quick saute of bacon, garlic and a full head of green cabbage. And then I made French Potato Salad. Yep, I did. And I received multiple scowls of disapproval from my English Father-in-Law who requested boiled potatoes. I did boil them….then I slathered them in a vinegar-mustard-caper-green onion vinaigrette.  And then everybody forgot that I had bastardized this Irish dinner with a French side dish :)

Corned Beef Brisket Brine

  • Water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole coriander
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole allspice
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (2 1/2 to 3 pound) brisket

Combine 1 cup water, salt and brown sugar. Whisk until sugar and salt have dissolved. Put water mixture and all remaining ingredients into a large ziplock bag. Add enough cold water to cover meat. Brine in the refrigerator overnight or up to 10 days (I did 2 and a half days).

Corned Beef Brisket

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, halved
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. whole peppercorns
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • Brined brisket
  • 1 can Guinness (16 oz.)
  • water to cover

Heat oil in a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot. Add in vegetables and seasonings, saute until softened (about 10 minutes). Place meat over vegetables. Pour in Guinness and enough water to cover meat. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. Then cook in a 300F preheated oven for 3 hours. Remove meat from cooking liquid and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving. Slice meat against the grain.

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence’s Corned Beef and Cabbage

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Beef Broth Soup With Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese

Beef Broth Soup

My Sweet Pea started 3 year old pre-K two weeks ago – and she’s now been battling a cold for about two weeks. I’m assuming the few days that she actually attended school, they really focused on learning how to share – because Little Miss shared her sickly germs with me (such a good sharer – I’m a proud Mama!). So after 2 weeks of little appetite, lot’s of coughing, a little fever, and 2 boxes of tissues – I am totally sick of it. I’ve finally got my appetite back, and all I can think about is a crisp gooey grilled cheese and a piping hot bowl a soup. So soup and sammie it is!

Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese

Beef Broth Soup

Stock

  • 1 1/2 Lbs. beef short ribs
  • 1/2 Lb. chuck steak
  • 1/4 C. red wine (merlot)
  • 2 carrots, rough chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, rough chopped
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. peppercorns
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • Water to cover (8-10 C.)

Soup

  • 4 crimini mushrooms
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp. chopped thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For stock : In a large stock pot, brown short ribs in 1 T. olive oil. Add in wine, simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Add in chuck steak, vegetables and garlic. Pour in enough water to cover by an inch or so. Season with salt, peppercorns and thyme. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cover and allow to slowly simmer for 3 – 4 hours.

Remove ribs and pull meat off of the bones. Shred meat and set aside for later. Remove large vegetable pieces and discard. Strain broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth into a large bowl. Cover bowl and allow to cool. Once broth has cooled, skim fat from broth.

For soup : In a pot, bring broth and meat up to a simmer. Slice mushrooms, green onions, and garlic paper thin. Add to broth. If needed, add salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for 20 – 30 minutes. Serve hot with grilled cheese sandwich.

Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese Sandwich 

  • 8 slices bread (5-grain Italian)
  • 4 – 6 Oz. cheese, shredded (mozzarella and sharp cheddar)
  • Caramelized onions (2 large onions)
  • 1 T. butter, softened

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium head. Lightly coat each slice of bread with butter, place for slices (butter down) into the skillet. Top each piece of bread with 1/4 of onions and 1/4 of cheese. Top with second slice of bread (butter up). Grill until bottom bread is golden. Flip sandwiches and cook until second side is golden and cheese has melted through.

Minestrone Soup

When you think about your favorite dishes, I doubt soup comes to mind. But this soup is about to change that – Minestrone is a hearty Italian soup full of vegetables, beans, pasta and topped with parmesan cheese. This version has sausage too!

The complete recipe, with measurements can be found at the bottom of the post

 minestrone soup

A few years back, I would watch Tyler Florence’s show every Saturday morning – almost religiously. The only reason I don’t watch it now is because it’s no longer being aired (and because a certain 3 year old has commandeered my TV remote…). One of his shows featured a recipe for Hunter’s Minestrone – and wow did it look good! I had always liked the thought of minestrone, but too often the actual soup was lacking – the vegetables were watery and bland, the broth was boring….but Tyler’s version was very promising! And it did NOT disappoint.

As with any recipe I make regularly, this one has met some modifications over the years….not enough to claim this recipe as “mine”, but enough to make an excellent recipe a little bit better (and easier to prepare).

First off Tyler wants you to steep you chicken stock with a whole head of garlic. Then he wants you to throw the garlic away! What!? I have to dirty a third pot AND trash the garlic? No thanks….instead I add the garlic into the vegetable medley.

rough chopped veggies

chopped veggies

Pulse the vegetables until everything is finely chopped, but not obliterated. The minced veggies give the broth a thicker consistency, which really makes this recipe stand out from other minestrone recipes I have tried.

sausage

Now for the sausage (and yes, this is the third post in a row that features sausage….but who’s counting?). I never have fresh sage on hand. I don’t grow it and I rarely use it. So instead of buying and chopping fresh sage, I buy Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage. This saves a little time and money and doesn’t affect the end result. But if you are a big fan of sage, by all means use it!

sausage, vegetables, herbs

After the sausage is nice and brown, it’s time for those veggies. Add them to the pot with salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaves and crank the heat up to high. The vegetables are full of water, which needs to be cooked out. Stir regularly and watch for most of the liquid to evaporate. Next we add the stock, beans and tomatoes.

cannellini beans

My go to brand of processed tomatoes is Pomi. They are imported from Italy and come in a cardboard box. They are a little more than a can of Hunt’s, but you get what you pay for – which in this case is less…which is good! The only ingredient in a box of Pomi tomatoes is…get ready for it….tomatoes! No citric acid, no salt, no nothing. And you can taste the difference. My store sells 2 styles – chopped and strained. Strained is like sauce, and the chopped are…well they are just chopped. I use the chopped for this soup.

Pomi tomatoes

Allow the soup to come up to a boil, then turn the heat down low. You want it to simmer for about half an hour. Next we’ll add in the pasta and a few cups of fresh greens. If I was buying something specific for this dish, I would get spinach. But I often use what I already have – today I have mixed baby lettuces.

pasta in soup

mixed greens

Allow the pasta and greens to cook in the pot for at least 5 minutes – then it’s time to serve. I like mine with a sprinkle of fresh parmesan and a few grinds of black pepper.

2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 lb. Sage sausage
1 T. Fresh thyme, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 qts. Chicken stock
1 box Pomi tomatoes (or large can diced tomatoes)
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 lb pasta, cooked and drained
2 – 3 C. Fresh greens (spinach is best)

Pulse celery, carrots, onion, and garlic in a food processor until minced (but not pureed).

In a large pot, brown sausage in 2 tsp. of olive oil. Use a wooden spoon to break it into small pieces. Once it is all browned, add in the vegetables, salt, pepper, thyme and bay. Allow moisture to cook out of vegetables, then add in stock, beans, and tomatoes.

Bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add in the pasta and fresh greens. Allow to cook for another 5 minutes. Serve into bowls, garnish with fresh parmesan.

Note : This soup can be frozen. But I prefer to leave out the pasta if I intend on freezing it. Then I add it in when ready to reheat.