Three Days of the Corned Beef

March 15, 2011 · 10 comments

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Today is the deadline for the Charcutepalooza March challenge: brining. The apprentice challenge – brining a whole chicken or some pork chops – is something I’ve been doing for years, so I changed it up a bit and brined duck legs instead.

The charcuterie challenge was a bit more complicated: brine a piece of beef brisket to make corned beef. This challenge way way out of my comfort zone, due to accidents of birth and upbringing:

  1. Although my last name is Shaw, I have no Irish ancestry at all. I’m partially of Scottish descent, hence my affinity for haggis.
  2. My Italian mother never cooked corned beef; the closest she ever came was boiled ham and cabbage, a childhood dish my father enjoyed and I loathed.
  3. Despite growing up short train ride away from New York City, I have never eaten at the Carnegie Deli or Katz’s. I may have eaten corned beef once or twice in my life, but it was unmemorable.

With three strikes against me I placed my faith in Ruhlman’s hands and relied on his brine and pickling spice recipes to get the beef started. In five days I was able to turn this:

into this:

As I contemplated how to braise the beef, I saw a recipe from Craigie on Main chef Tony Maws pop up in my Twitter feed, as if he knew what I was working on. He’s never steered me wrong with his food before, so I chose his braising method, which was heavier on the sweet aromatics. During the four hour simmer the house smelled amazing. I began to hope that this completely foreign food would turn out all right. I let the beef rest overnight in the fridge, in its pot of braising liquid, while I figured out how to cook it.

Again Ruhlman came to the rescue, calling attention to his corned beef and cabbage recipe posted last year. I was intrigued by his cabbage preparation; perhaps it wouldn’t become a heap of mushy, stinky, gray-green sludge. I took a chance and prepared the dish for last-minute dinner guests, and it turned out rather well. The beef was so tender it was difficult to slice into whole pieces (note to self: slice beef while cold, then heat up), the cabbage was cooked but still had some crunch, the salty, buttery potatoes provided a starchy counterpoint, and the cooking liquid (enhanced with dijon mustard) tied everything together. I need not comment on the bacon lardons, because, well, bacon.

This corned beef stuff tasted good, and both She Who Must Be Obeyed and He Who Will Not Be Ignored agreed with my plan to convert some of the leftovers into corned beef hash. Again, Tony Maws was reading my mind, because he posted his hash recipe the same day. Although I skipped his suggestion of finishing the dish with hollandaise sauce, I did add the optional poached egg. I served this for dinner, and it rocked the house.

I still had a third of the beef remaining, I was on a roll, so I decided to make reuben sandwiches for She Who, who claims not to have eaten a decent reuben since she moved away from Brooklyn. This was a big risk for me, because I’d have to face down two ingredients I have managed to avoid most of my life: Russian dressing and the dreaded sauerkraut. I could never understand the appeal of a mayo/ketchup/sweet relish mixture, and I could never get past the smell of canned fermented cabbage. But if I could make and eat kimchi and live to tell the tale, I should be able to conquer kraut.

I didn’t have time to make sauerkraut, but I found the next best thing in at my neighborhood market: homemade small-batch sauerkraut sold in refrigerated jars. As for the dressing, the recipe in Charcuterie proved to be my best bet, in that it was refreshingly devoid of relish. I had a slab of Emmenthaler cheese, and had recently baked my own rye (recipe from Ruhlman’s Bread Baking Basics iPad app, but also posted here).

Time to make the sandwiches: This time I sliced the beef while it was cold, using my new toy:

I also used it to slice the cheese and bread, then began the assembly: bread, dressing, cheese, beef, sauerkraut (which, much to my surprise and delight, tasted like brined cabbage), cheese, dressing, and bread.

After a slow toasting on a griddle over low heat, they were done. I served them with homemade pickles.

I was pleased with how these turned out, but had to wait for She Who’s considered opinion: “This is a fine sandwich. You need to make them again.” It was all there: salty beef, crunchy cabbage, nutty cheese, rich dressing, and hearty bread.

Three days, three meals, three successes, all with a previously unknown ingredient. I feel like Iron Chef Charcuterie. (That’s a good idea –  maybe Michael Symon will consider adopting the name.)

One challenge down. Next up: hot smoking, which should be a walk in the park. As long as my local FD doesn’t intervene again.

Three Days of the Corned Beef on Punk Domestics


Jonathan March 16, 2011 at 10:33 am

Those three meals look AMAZING. There is nothing better than hash made from brisket you corned yourself and made for dinner the night before. I applaud you.

David March 16, 2011 at 11:32 am

Thanks! It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had expected.

Peter March 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I have that same deli slicer. Aren’t Reubens grand? As soon as my bread is ready I’m having another one. Give kraut a try- it’s even less work than kimchi.

David March 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm

I love the slicer, I can’t imagine how I lived without it. It will make slicing lardo and prosciutto much easier.

No more Reubens for me, at least not until I make more corned beef.

David Dallow March 17, 2011 at 9:32 am

You are not a successful home smoker until you’ve had a visit from the fire department. Or at keast that’s what I tell myself after a similar incident, mine taking place at 6:30 am and waking up most of my neighborhood.

David March 17, 2011 at 10:00 am

I would have been happy to offer them some of the finished product if they hadn’t been such jerks. The payoff for me was watching the cop trying not to laugh as I asked the FD guys abut the specifics of the regulations, and where in this town it was possible to legally operate a BBQ grill.

One of the few things I miss about living in Westchester is a back yard.

David Dallow March 17, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I often miss Manhattan but I couldn’t give up my Big Green Egg! They were actually quite cool considering they’d been driving around the neighborhood for an hour trying to pinpoint the smoke. My neighbors, whose doorbells they rang at 6am, may have found them jerks. However, as I’d been up since 3 am smoking a pork butt it felt like mid-afternoon. I was about to crack some beers for the guys.

I should also point out that you handled the entire experience a world better than I would have. Well done.

David March 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm

3 AM to start a pork butt – that’s dedication.

The only reason I behaved as well as I did is because She Who Must Be Obeyed is an attorney, and has drilled certain protocols into my head.

Mosaica March 25, 2011 at 4:36 am

Great post, David! My brisket was of a size to provide a boiled dinner for 3 (with yummy boxty) as well as a few breakfasts of corned beef hash (or `biksemad’ as we call it home in DK), but no Reubens, and I’m contemplating sourcing another brisket just to brine & corn for sandwiches 😉

I saw the link for Tony Maws’ corned beef hash, but couldn’t track down the corned beef braising recipe. Can you point me in the right direction?

Also, which meat slicer did you get? I’m in the market for one, and so far it’s looking like a used commercial Globe slicer. My meat-cutter mentor is taking a look at it before I buy it.


David March 25, 2011 at 11:16 am

My corned beef is from the flat cut of a whole brisket I had split and trimmed; the fattier end was turned into pastrami which will be part of the April Charcutepalooza post.

The Tony Maws corned beef recipe is at the same site as the hash:

My meat slicer is an EdgeCraft 610. You can buy it at Amazon (, but if you buy it from HSN (, it ships with a second, fine-edge non-serrated blade. I figured the extra blade would be better for extra-thin slicing for cheese and lardo.

I’m envious of your pancetta. How difficult was it to roll up? Did you need two people?

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