Corned beef and cabbage never really had a fighting chance.
As St. Patrick's Day rolls in with the last days of winter, we're already itching for a little excitement (this might explain the green beer). By the weathered end of March, our affections for stews and rustic hunks of meat are on the wane.
It's a dish that's comforting in its reverent plainness, and that's about the best it could hope for -- until now.
Enter Suzanne Goin, a chef more synonymous with sunny California farmers' markets and Mediterranean cooking than economic meats and carbs. (Her restaurant in L.A. is named after a French olive -- who is she to tell us how to make our Irish-American stew?)
But perhaps that's just what corned beef and cabbage was waiting for all this time: a little sunshine. And, since Goin's version comes from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, her much-loved book of family-style menus, it's almost as easy as the old school dump-in-the-crock pot approach, with a few brilliant tweaks.
First off, she treats the vegetables as equal partners. James Beard may have boiled his carrots for an hour, but modern cooks have since gotten the memo that vegetables might not be in their prime after stewing along with a salty slab of beef for so long.
In fact, they are not and having surrendered their souls to the broth, they will taste of nothing but corned beef, through and through.
So Goin divorces the vegetables from the meat, and they're free to cook in their own time -- that is, briefly. The beef will bubble merrily in the oven for hours before you even need to peel a carrot. Then out comes the beef and the vegetables go in, just for a dip. Goin isn't alone in this method, but she does clock the vegetables out in perfect time.
She adds the potatoes first (because there's no such thing as an al dente potato). Then after five minutes, the rest of the team -- carrots, cabbage, and turnips -- join in to poach for about 15 minutes. They cook just enough, soaking up seasoning from the broth, but staying true to themselves.
In an exciting twist, while they're simmering, Goin has us throw the beef in the still-hot oven to brown and crisp up a bit. (At the market, choose a specimen with at least a thin layer of fat left on top -- you'll be glad when it gets sizzling.)
Finally, she brings in what any salty, long-cooked broth craves: a sauce that vibrates with life. She takes a traditional corned beef condiment -- a flour-based white sauce with parsley and mustard -- and reincarnates it into an herby vinaigrette, very much like a feisty chimichurri or Italian salsa verde.
Think of what a dill pickle does for your corned beef on rye -- that's what a little vinegar does here, swirling in your soup along with sharp bites of shallot, the emerald stain of pounded parsley, and mustard seeds that slide across the meat and pop under your teeth.
Suzanne Goin's Corned Beef and Cabbage with Parsley-Mustard Sauce
Note: If you use all-natural corned beef, or brined your own and didn't use pink salt (i.e. salt with sodium nitrite or similar), you will end up with brown, not pink, slabs of meat that will taste just as good but won't look as you remember them.
I leave it up to you to decide where you fall on the nostalgia vs. nitrites spectrum. We got our corned beef from The Meat Hook, pink salt and all, and were glad we did.
One 6-pound corned-beef brisket 2 onions 4 whole cloves 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh 1/2 bunch thyme 2 chiles de arbol 6 small carrots 9 golf ball-sized turnips 1 1/4 pounds yellow potatoes, peeled 1 medium green cabbage (about 2 pounds)
For the Parsley-Mustard Sauce:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely diced shallots 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 3/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1/2 lemon, for juicing Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom
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I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."