Traditional St. Patrick’s Day. With Fire.

Guest Post – Please Welcome Anson Kennedy!

Corned Beef and Cabbage

For Saint Patrick’s Day this year I wanted to use traditional ingredients in a nontraditional way. The classic Saint Paddy’s dinner is boiled corned beef with cabbage and potatoes. I decided I’d use the smoker and the grill instead of a pot of water. So I corned a brisked and smoked it, and grilled the cabbage and potatoes. There was an unplanned diversion on smoking day, but still the result was incredible.

According to Wikipedia, “corned beef is a type of salt-cured beef product present in many cultures. The term comes not from the grain corn, but from the treatment of the meat with ‘corns’ of salt.” Traditional corned beef is wet-corned in a spiced brine for up to a week. “Pink salt” (sodium nitrite) is what gives corned beef its distinctive red color. On cooking day it is boiled with cabbage, potatoes, and other vegetables (like carrots). I planned to corn a brisket and then smoke it instead of boiling it. Yes, I know that smoked corned beef is pastrami. I will continue to call it corned beef in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day.

A week before St. Patrick’s Day, I started with a 4.5 pound brisket and cut the fat cap off since the brine can’t get through it. I used the corning recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing for the brine. Usually you use a 10% brine; the boiling process keeps it from being too salty. Since I would be smoking the brisket I used a 5% brine (about 6.3 ounces of kosher salt per gallon plus the pink salt) and planned to soak the brisket in plain water for several hours on the day before the 17th. The pickling spice added to the brine consisted of black peppercorns, coriander seed, mustard seed, hot red pepper flakes, allspice berries, ground mace, crushed cinnamon sticks, crumbled bay leaves, whole cloves, and ground ginger.

I simmered the pickling spice, salt, and some garlic to dissolve the salt and then cooled and chilled the brine in the refrigerator. Then I put the brisket in a large zip top bag, added the brine and put it in a glass dish in the refrigerator. I turned the bag over every day for five days.

On the sixth day I took the brisket out of the brine and rinsed it off. Then I put it in fresh water for about four hours, changing the water every hour or so. After the brisket was done soaking to leach out some of the salt, I applied a modified beef rub. My normal beef rub consists of salt, fresh ground peppercorn, sugar, onion powder, mustard powder, garlic powder, chili powder, and chipotle powder. Since I already had plenty of salt in the brine I substituted fresh ground coriander seed. First I rubbed plain yellow mustard on the brisket then heavily rubbed the spices on it.

The last thing I did the night before was put mesquite and hickory chunks in water to soak.

Instead of resting on the seventh day I smoked. About an hour or so before I planned to start smoking I took the brisket out of the refrigerator to let it come up to room temperature.

I have an offset smoker, the New Braunfels Silver Smoker. It’s one of a class of smokers sometimes disparagingly called a Cheap Offset Smoker (“good” smokers being those that cost at least $800). I think the real difference is that you have to pay more attention when using the less expensive offset smokers. I have tweaked mine a bit but it’s still not “set it and forget it.”

I fired up the smoker with charcoal started in a charcoal chimney. Never, ever, use lighter fluid or charcoal with lighter fluid (“match light”) in a smoker. It will give the meat an off flavor and ruin the smoker. That stuff might be OK on an open grill where you can burn it off before cooking but you can never get rid of the residue it leaves in a smoker. And the residue will affect everything that you try to cook after.

When the temperature was between 225° and 250° I put a couple of wood chunks in the firebox to begin smoking. A few minutes later in goes the brisket. Now it’s a matter of monitoring the temperature and adding charcoal or wood chunks as needed.

And here’s where the unplanned event came in.

I originally intended to tend the smoker all day until the corned beef was done, but earlier in the week we decided to take our grand

son Tommy to a kite flying festival in the afternoon. I couldn’t leave the smoker unattended so it was time to implement Plan B.

After about four hours in the smoker I put the brisket in a roasting pan and poured a bottle of Guinness Black Lager over it. Then I covered it with aluminum foil and put it in a preheated 225° oven. The brisket was at 141° internal temp when I did this.

So then it was off to the  kite flying.

After flying for awhile (we only tangled with another kiter once), we came back home.Tommy had an octopus and I flew a box kite.

The brisket was at 212° so I turned the oven down to warm (170°). Then I prepared the sides, cabbage and potatoes.

I used the recipe for grilled cabbage from Food.com. Basically you cut a cabbage into wedges, spread butter on them, season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, sprinkle with Parmesan, wrap in bacon and then wrap in aluminum foil. Cook in a medium grill for about 40 minutes. The cabbage comes out very buttery. A hit.

I parboiled whole potatoes for about 10 minutes. Usually when you take them off the stove you immediately put them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Since I was going straight to the grill I quickly cut them into wedges, lightly oiled them with canola oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper. Then they went on the grill. The potatoes took about 10 or 12 minutes to cook (turning once or twice) and got some nice grill marks.

I was very pleased with how everything turned out. My “traditional” Saint Patrick’s Day meal captured all the flavors you expect and kicked it up a notch with the smoker and the grill. The final judge was my wife Annie. She loved it.

I can’t wait for the next “special day” to do it with fire.

– Anson

Comments

  1. Great post Anson! I really enjoyed reading it! Thank you also for walking us through the entire process of the cook!

    Jay

  2. Mmmm. Looked great. Thanks for sharing with us Anson… would love to see you try a few more recipes for us here on the site!

  3. Thanks for the opportunity to contribute! I really enjoyed doing it.

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