What Herman Made: Corned Beef and Cabbage

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Snobs!

I have a special What Herman Made for just this occasion: Corned Beef and Cabbage. Also, the recipe is so simple you could probably still make it after sucking down 4 or 5 green beers. Winning!

Corned beef and cabbage is a pretty traditional meal dating back a bunch of years. How many you ask? How the hell should I know. What do I look like, a historian? All I know is that I have some Irish lineage in my family and the stuff is pretty damn tasty. It is also considered peasant food, which means it MUST be good and is usually pretty cheap to make.

I will say one thing. My version is a little unorthodox. I like my corned beef and cabbage as a soup rather than just cooked and plated up. Not to say that my way is better. It’s just the way I’ve always made it.

So, where do we start? With beer of course. The recipe doesn’t call for any, but a little beer never hurt anyone! So crack one open, and drink away. What? I never said anything about adding it to the pot…

As you can see in the picture above, there aren’t a lot of ingredients. And honestly, most of the ones shown are optional. The only ingredients that are technically required are corned beef, cabbage, water, and pepper. You don’t even need salt! More on that later. Let’s begin, shall we?

IMG_20160313_145548560As I said before, corned beef and cabbage really only needs those two ingredients, and it is still awesome that way. I just like to add a few extra things to mine. Namely onions, garlic, carrots, maybe some celery, potatoes, and a little parsley for good measure. Nothing that will break the bank. It’s still peasant food. One other thing I used this time that probably isn’t typical is some chicken broth. Again, just a little extra flavor is all. Certainly not required. So there you have it. Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients, it’s time to cook.

IMG_20160313_145808036First, we start with the corned beef. I do want to cover a few things on this as there are a couple variations. I am a meat expert you see, and I know good meat when I see it (being corny is also a requirement when dealing with corned beef, HO HO!).

The only real thing you need to know is that there are two different cuts of corned beef. This has to do with the meat before it becomes corned. Here it is simply brisket. Straight off the cow, brisket is a pretty big cut of meat, often weighing in around 12 lbs. Because of this, it is usually cut down. This leads to the two different cuts, the point and the flat. There is really only one difference between the two. The point is a lot thicker and actually has a layer of fat running through the middle. The flat is just like it sounds; it is a flatter, thinner cut of meat. It still has a layer of fat. It is just on the outside instead of the middle.

So which should you use for corned beef? It’s really up to you. Personally, I like to use the point because it has the extra layer of fat. Fat equals flavor, and we all like that. And, how else am I supposed to keep a well shaped midsection (screw six packs, gimme the whole keg!).

IMG_20160313_145820834Here you see the back side of the corned beef package. Looks yummy.

One other thing to note about corned beef if you are not familiar. The corned part. All this means is that the beef brisket is cured. Curing just means that it is preserved with salt and some other stuff. Oddly enough, in this case the beef is actually soaked in a liquid for a specific amount of time in a very similar way that pickles are. So really, you are cooking with pickled beef. Neat!

There are also various spices added, again similar to pickling, which you can see from the package. These too add extra flavor. That’s about it. Corned beef 101.

Now that the complicated stuff is out of the way, feel free to play along at home and crack another beer! You’ve earned it. Next, we start to cook.

IMG_20160313_150010244Start by cutting open the corned beef package and plopping it and all the spices into a large pot (shown above). Add your chicken broth if you are using any and cover with water. You want to make sure you have plenty of liquid as some of it will cook off. Also, I know it sounds odd, but do not add any salt at this point. The corned beef is already loaded with salt. You might need to add some later depending on how much liquid you have, but skip it for now.

The next step is to cook the crap out of the corned beef. Again, brisket is a really tough cut and you need to cook it for a long time in order to break down all the connective tissue. How long depends on the size of the brisket and how tender you want it to be. I like my corned beef to have a little bit of chew to it so that I can still cut it up into smaller pieces later. So I only cook it for about 3 to 4 hours. When I say cook, I mean simmer, not a full boil. It still comes out pretty tender, and the fat is still holding together a little.

IMG_20160313_182558716It should look something like this. So next, remove it from the pot and set it aside to cool. While it’s cooling, we can start on the veggies. If all you are going to add is the cabbage, by all means cut that up first. For me, since I am adding other stuff too, I want to cut those first as they take a little bit longer to cook.

IMG_20160313_185415088So again, I like to add some pretty standard soup veggies. I put onions and garlic in because they tend to almost dissolve in the liquid and add a bunch of extra flavor, so they go in first. Next is the carrots and celery. The taters only need about 10 minutes to cook, so you want to add them right before your cabbage. Keep them set aside until we cut up the corned beef.

IMG_20160313_183134178Here we have the cooked corned beef. You can pick off the spices if you want to. They can be a little overpowering if you bite into a whole one.

IMG_20160313_185837884Above is a cross section of the cooked corned beef. You can see the layer of fat in the middle in all its glory.

IMG_20160313_191938965And here it is all cut up. Be sure to try a few pieces. You know, to make sure it’s any good. Also, time for that next beer!

At this point you can add it back to the pot. You can also add the taters so they get a head start while you cut up the cabbage. Don’t worry. You’re almost done!

IMG_20160313_192542017Hey look. A cabbage.

IMG_20160313_193652261-2Hey look. A cut up cabbage. How convenient.

Now I know it looks like a lot of cabbage, but what did you expect? It’s kind of in the name. So add said cabbage to the pot.

The cabbage only needs a few minutes to soften. Hell, you can really eat it at any point once it’s mixed in. Just depends on how crunchy you want it to be. The only thing left to add is parsley, if you so choose, and pepper. I recommend a lot of pepper by the way. It just goes well with the soup.

IMG_20160313_194621585And there you have it. A giant heaping pot of Irish goodness.

IMG_20160313_195324432Throw it in a bowl and you have yourself a meal.

So I have to mention something. The best part of this soup is not eating it right away. This stuff gets better as it sits. After a night in the fridge, the corned beef gets even softer and the cabbage is pretty much mush, and it’s freaking awesome! It reheats perfectly, but believe it or not, I actually really like to eat it cold. I don’t know why. It just tastes awesome. Also, as you might guess, it is perfect for drunk fewd.

So there you have it! Herman’s corned beef and cabbage. Told you it was simple. Enjoy, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!