New twists on the iconic St. Patrick’s Day corned beef

Posted March 16, 2011, at 11:01 a.m.

Thinly sliced corned beef piled high on a sandwich.

Boiled corned beef with its traditional companions: cabbage, carrots and potatoes.

St. Patrick’s Day is close at hand.

Are you gearing up for corned beef, which symbolizes St. Patrick’s Day in the United States?

At Irish restaurants and bars, corned beef will be the menu star.

And what’s the secret to great corned beef? At Sean O’Callaghan’s in Plymouth, Mich., co-owner Sam Khashan says it’s not so much how you cook it but how you slice it. And that, he says, should be against the grain.

If you slice corned beef with the grain, Khashan says, it’s tougher and rubbery.

“I also think it needs to be super-thin,” he says. “The best delis do it that way, and the best Irish restaurants do it that way.”

Cooked the proper amount of time, Khashan says, “the meat will be tender enough to cut it thick or thin.”

At Sean O’Callaghan’s, shaved corned beef goes into the corned beef melt, topped with red cabbage slaw and a spicy aioli, and into boxty, a large potato pancake with corned beef inside.

At Dick O’Dow’s in Birmingham, Mich., chef Richard Spicer believes the key to tender corned beef is keeping it submerged when it’s boiled.

“You need to keep it covered with liquid, or the part not covered with liquid will be dry because you are cooking it so long,” he says.

Spicer’s corned beef dinner features honey-glazed roasted carrots, roasted red-skinned potatoes and parsley-mustard sauce.

“My take on it was that we wanted to get away from traditional boiled corned beef over cabbage,” Spicer says. “It’s also that people like corned beef and mustard, so the sauce adds a nice bright-yellow color to the dish.”

Tom Wigley, president of Wigley’s Corned Beef in Detroit’s Eastern Market, says many, many truckloads of corned beef are sold before the big day.

“The volume around St. Patrick’s Day, over normal volume, probably increases tenfold,” Wigley says. “Everyone wants a piece of corned beef.”

Wigley advises bringing the brisket to a boil and slowly simmering it. A 5-pounder will take three to 3½ hours.

For a more challenging approach, Wigley has prepared Dublin Corned Beef, served with orange horseradish cream and Cumberland sauce, a recipe he found in the late Sheila Lukins’ “All Around the World Cookbook.”

“So you can do corned beef real simple or spend time in the kitchen and get pretty complicated,” Wigley says.

Basic Corned Beef

  • Serves: 8 / Preparation time: 5 minutes / Total time: 3 hours (stovetop)
  • 1 corned beef brisket (about 4 pounds), trimmed of fat if needed
  • Water
  • 12 ounces beer, optional

Stovetop method: Remove corned beef from package. Rinse it under cold water. Place corned beef brisket in large pot. If it came with a spice packet, add that to pot if you like. Add the beer if using and pour in enough cold water to cover brisket. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 2½ to 3 hours or until fork-tender.

Oven method: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse brisket and place in baking dish. Add enough water to come at least halfway up sides of dish. Add seasoning from spice packet, if desired, or your own seasoning. Cover with foil and bake about 3 hours or until fork-tender throughout.

Slow-cooker method: Rinse corned beef and place in slow cooker. If meat is too big to lie flat, cut it in half and stack it. Add water just to cover. Add spices from spice packet, or you can add a bay leaf, a few peppercorns and whole allspice berries and some mustard seeds. Cover and cook on low setting 9 to 11 hours or on high setting 4½ hours or until fork-tender throughout.

From and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis based on boiled corned beef only. 465 calories (32 percent from fat), 16 grams fat (6 grams sat. fat), 0 grams carbohydrates, 75 grams protein, 126 mg sodium, 156 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber.

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Reuben Sliders

Makes: 12 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 25 minutes

You can use a light Thousand Island dressing instead of making your own.

  • 12 small dinner rolls
  • ½ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons capers, drained and rinsed well, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped gherkin or sweet pickle
  • 12 ounces thinly sliced corned beef
  • 6 slices baby Swiss cheese, cut in quarters
  • 2 cups finely shredded cabbage
  • 6 tablespoons packaged French-fried onions

Prepare dinner rolls according to package directions. Slice dinner rolls in half.

Preheat broiler.

In small bowl, mix mayonnaise, ketchup, capers and gherkin. Save some of the mayonnaise mixture to serve on the side if you like. Arrange bottom rolls on a broiler pan. Spread with some of the mayonnaise mixture and top with slices of corned beef, folding them over. Top with 2 quarter-slices of cheese. Broil until cheese melts.

Remove from oven, top with shredded cabbage and french-fried onions and the top of the roll. Serve immediately with extra dressing on the side.

From and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis per one slider. 273 calories (38 percent from fat), 11 grams fat (4 grams sat. fat), 25 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 405 mg sodium, 33 mg cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.

Reuben Soup

Serves: 8 / Preparation time: 10 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup chopped sweet onion
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes or reduced-sodium beef bouillon granules
  • 2 cups chopped, cooked corned beef
  • 2 cups finely shredded green or savoy cabbage
  • 2 cups fat-free half-and-half or light cream
  • 1½ cups shredded Swiss cheese, divided

In large soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and celery and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes.

Stir in water and add bouillon; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add corned beef and cabbage. Whisk in half-and-half and 1 cup Swiss cheese. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Stir occasionally.

Serve in individual bowls or cups, topping each with 1 tablespoon of remaining shredded cheese.

Adapted from several Reuben soup recipes.

Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Analysis based on a 1-cup serving. 236 calories (64 percent from fat), 17 grams fat (9 grams sat. fat), 7 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 561 mg sodium, 64 mg cholesterol, 1 grams fiber.

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