|Corned beef point brisket, red potatoes, baby carrots, red cabbage|
How to Make Perfect Corned Beef Dinner in a Crock Pot
Corned beef is not something eaten in Ireland, but it is popular in the U.S. as a St. Patrick's Day dinner. (Alanis Morrissette -- this is ironic.) In Chicago, where I grew up, St. Patrick's Day celebrations last for about 3 weeks, with several big parades spanning two or three weekends, and countless parties. The Chicago River is dyed a bright green for the holiday. People dress in kelly green derby hats, tophats, and bowties. Beers - especially Guinness, are the mandatory drink, and corned beef dinner is the mandatory meal.
This is how to make an absolutely delicious corned beef dinner in a crock pot. This meal consists of corned beef, red potatoes, baby carrots, and red cabbage -- and it is all cooked in the crock pot and meant to be served all on one plate or bowl.
What is different about this recipe than most other corned beef recipes? This calls for seasoning the outside of the corned beef with black pepper and garlic powder and a good coating of honey mustard, and then searing it in olive oil and browning the fat before adding the meat to the crock pot. Very few corned beef recipes call for browning the outside of the meat, but I think it makes it look and taste much better. Another difference is this recipe calls for red cabbage, rather than green. This is to give the meat and sauce a rich garnet color and also to avoid the pungent cabbage-y smell. Another difference is this recipe calls for you to rinse the corned beef rather well in cool water before cooking it, to remove a lot of the excess salt. This recipe also calls for the meal to be cooked for 10 hours in crock pot on the low setting. If you don't have 10 hours to wait, this recipe is not for you!
If you are used to a tough or chewy corned beef -- this is not that. This is a very tender, melt-in-your-mouth corned beef, with creamy/waxy potatoes and perfect carrots and cabbage.
1. Buy a corned beef brisket. Corned beef brisket is sold in two basic cuts -- flat or point. For this recipe, you want a point, because it has more fat and is juicier. You are going to cook this for 10 hours. You will need about one pound of uncooked meat for each person you will serve, since the meat shrinks down and this dish is so delicious people will want seconds. Look at several of the corned beef points and choose the one that appeals to you.
2. Rinse the meat in cool water to wash off some of the salt. Rinse it under cool running water in a big pan. Dump out the water a few times. Instead of all that salt, we are going to skillfully season this corned beef. If you don't rinse the corned beef, it will be extremely salty, almost inedible and probably dangerous for anyone who should not be eating so much salt.
3. Season and sear. Liberally sprinkle ground black pepper and garlic powder (not garlic salt!) all over the outside of the meat, particularly on the fat. Then, coat the outside with honey mustard and rub it in with a spoon. Then, sear all sides of the brisket in sizzling olive oil in a nonstick fry pan or cast iron skillet. Sear the fatty sides of the meat for about 5 minutes each to brown them up nicely. Sear the other sides for about a minute each. To sear the short sides of the meat, you have to hold it up with a big fork and/or big kitchen tongs. The honey mustard is going to form a crust with the fat and will flavor the meat for the 10 hours it is in the crock pot. Save the seasoned olive oil from the fry pan to dump into the crock put once you get that filled and ready.
4. Fill the crock pot. Pour the brisket into the crock pot with the fattiest side up. Then cut about 10 small red potatoes into eighths and put them around the brisket. Cut about 20 baby carrots in half and put them along the sides of the meat, too. Cut up an onion into big chunks, break the chunks apart and use those to cover the brisket. Add pickling spice -- shaking in a few good shakes. Pickling spice comes in big spice shakers and is a mix of peppercorns, mustard seed, cinnamon, allspice, and other spices. It smells so good and flavors the meat and vegetables perfectly. You might want to use a spice ball or bag so the pickling spice does not mix with the liquid. I add the spice directly to the liquid, but later spend some time fishing out some of the peppercorns, which can be a nuisance in the sauce. I don't think the spices has as much effect in a spice ball or bag. Later, you will be adding red cabbage - but not yet.
5. Prepare a seasoning liquid. In a blender cup or in a bowl with a whisk, mix up: 4 or 5 cups of water, a couple tablespoons of Dijon mustard, a tablespoon of minced garlic, and some spices -- pepper, sage, garlic powder, a dash of dried red pepper. Add a good dash of balsamic vinegar. Blend or whisk up this mix and then pour it into the crock pot. The meat should be totally covered -- if it is not, add some water to just cover the meat. Pour the seasoned olive oil from the fry pan into the crock pot. It will only be a small amount, but it adds a nice flavor and waxy texture to the potatoes.
6. Cook. Set the crock pot on low and plan to cook it for 10 hours. Make sure you have your crock put someplace that it has at least a foot of clearance on all sides, so the heat it generates does not affect anything else or cause a fire hazard. Make sure there is nothing above it, either -- such as a cabinet or shelf that could be harmed by 10 hours of heat from the crock pot. If you are around during the 10 hours, it is fun to check the meat with a dinner fork every few hours and watch how it becomes more and more tender. At about 6 hours, it is probably edible, but tough. At 8 hours, it is tender. At 10 hours, it is very tender. As long as the meat is fully covered in liquid, it will continue to get tender during the 10 hours. That's why it is important to start with plenty of nicely spiced liquid in the crock pot.
7. Red cabbage. I use red cabbage because it gives the sauce and meat a nice garnet color. It also does not have that strong pungent cabbage-y smell. Cut some thin red cabbage wedges and put them into the crock pot with the potatoes and carrots. This cabbage will provide color, but will almost disappear with cooking. A couple hours before you are going to eat -- about 7 or 8 hours from the time you start the crock pot, come back and add bigger wedges of red cabbage into the crock pot.
8. Cook for 10 hours on low. After 10 hours, the meat should be very tender. Remove the meat onto a platter and let it cool for 10 or 15 minutes before cutting it. Use a big slotted spoon to remove the potatoes, carrots, and cabbage from the crock pot into a bowl to serve. Add some of the sauce from the crock pot into the vegetable bowl or into a separate bowl -- and you might want to strain it as you do, to remove the peppercorns and mustard seeds. You can do this by using a ladle to pour the sauce through a metal strainer into a big serving bowl. The strainer will end out filled with peppercorns, mustard seeds, bits of onion, etc.
9. Slice the meat against the grain. The meat will have a texture like many tiny straws all lined up. You want to slice the meat so you are cutting against this -- to create a slice that is many short straws. If you cut the meat this way, there will be layers of fat on the top and bottom of each slice, with a very tender slice of meat in between. Since we seasoned and browned the fat, it will be tasty and some people will want to eat some of it. If not, each person can easily remove the fat from their serving.
10. Serve and eat. This is a great meal to serve in flat bowls, such as big pasta or soup bowls, if you have those. If not, plates will do. I usually warm up the bowls or plates by adding a tiny bit of liquid and microwaving them on high for 15 seconds. A warm dish keeps the food hotter longer and is a nice touch.
11. Serve with beer, wine, water, or apple cider for a delicious meal.
What you will need to make this:
Corned beef brisket point cut
ground black pepper
some other spices, whatever you like
big meat fork
cutting plate or board
bowls or plates