Monday, March 12, 2012

A Proper St. Patrick's Day Meal. Part One. Braised Corned Beef Brisket.

The Hawthornes had a rehearsal Saint Patrick's Day meal back in February, so I could give it a trial run for you. I'm posting ahead of time in case you need recipes for St. Paddy's Day. Today, I'm making corned beef brisket and colcannon, which is a traditional Irish dish of potatoes and cabbage.
And yes. Those are real shamrocks on top and they're edible. Slight citrus taste.
What is brisket? It's the chest muscle of the cow, so it gets a good workout. The cow's exercise makes the brisket tough, but very flavorful. There are two different cuts of brisket. The butcher receives the whole brisket and cuts it into the point cut and the flat cut.
What I happened to have in the freezer was the point cut. The point cut is smaller and thicker than the flat cut. It also has more fat and connective tissue than the flat cut. There's a lot of flavor here, but less meat. This was on sale when I bought it and that's why I bought it. For your Saint Patrick's Day dinner, I recommend the flat cut. It should be marked as such on the package. The flat cut is long and thin and has a layer of fat on top, but not running inside.
And you want a 4-pound flat cut brisket. This will shrink. A lot.
To prepare the corned beef, you first need to trim off the fat.
With a sharp knife, tease the fat away from the meat.
Holding the fat away with one hand, scrape it from the meat with the other.
It's not necessary to get every bit of the fat off. Now I DO NOT want you to do this step: I cut the brisket in half, since there are two of us here. I'm doing my brisket my way and Mr. Hawthorne is doing his brisket the wrong way. You leave it whole.
I also cut the point in half for instructional purposes. Take a look. You wouldn't have known about that thick layer of fat right below the surface.
This is why you want the flat cut. Less fat. More meat. Mr. Hawthorne took his half and boiled it for three hours. I prefer my method - braising, which I'll explain more about later.
Making a V-cut, I'm slicing out that big vein of fat.
Remember: buy the flat cut. Buy the flat cut.
If you notice, at bottom right there's a separate little piece of meat. Also, the meat at that end is very thin.
Here's a better picture of it.
Fold the thin layer back over the meat.
And place that little extra piece of meat on top of the thin part to even it all out.
You want your meat to be the same thickness, so it all cooks at the same time.
Tie it up to keep the pieces in place.
Ready for a spicy rub and then braising. First, a lesson in cooking meats and the braising vs boiling issue. A well-exercised muscle, like the brisket, is tougher than "lazier" meats, like the tenderloin. The thicker muscle fibers and more connective tissues of the tougher cuts of meat need to be cooked differently from a tender cut. Meats are made up of muscle fibers, fat, connective tissues, and water. When you cook meat, the muscle fibers shrink as the fat melts out and as the water evaporates. That means you're losing both flavor and moisture. But the heat helps to dissolve the tough connective tissues. When you cook a brisket, you need to find a balance - you need to cook the brisket long enough to break down muscle fibers and connective tissues, but not so long that the meat dries out. The best method of doing this is braising. Braising is a technique in which meats are simmered in a pan with liquid. The pan is covered and the resultant steam bath gently cooks the meat. Boiling the meat happens at 212 degrees. Braising occurs around 185 degrees, so you can braise meat longer since it doesn't cook as quickly and this gives it more time to tenderize. Originally, corned beef was boiled to leach out the saltiness, but the salt and flavor ended up in the water. In braising, some of the saltiness is released into the water, but the muscle fibers are relaxed enough to reabsorb the braising liquid, along with the flavor. I braise my brisket for 3 hours. After each hour, I pour out the water and refresh it. This way, you get rid of a lot of the saltiness, but retain the flavor.
Remember to use the FLAT CUT brisket. To prepare the brisket, first rinse beef under cold water to wash off curing salts. Pat dry with paper towels. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
First, I'm making a deliciously spicy rub.
Rub a 4-pound flat cut brisket with: 4 TB brown sugar, packed 2 tsp dry mustard 1 tsp freshly ground pepper 1 tsp ground nutmeg 1 tsp ground ginger 1 tsp ground cloves 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
My pretty little spices.
Mix thoroughly and ...
... sprinkle over brisket.
Rub it into the meat.
All over. Massage it and really work the spices into the meat. The spice and the heat is a nice contrast to the saltiness of the meat.
Next, add in enough cold water to come halfway up the side of the brisket. Do NOT pour water over top of brisket and wash off the rub. Cover the brisket with foil and place into a 350 degree oven. Braise for one hour.
After one hour, remove from oven and pour out liquid. Let the baking dish cool a bit before you add in fresh water halfway up the brisket. Don't want to have that cold liquid/hot crock pot and/or hot liquid/cold crock pot implosion that Sandra Lee is always giving dire warnings about. Braise for a second hour.
After the second hour, pour out water, and refresh again. Cook for one more hour.
There's my corned beef in the back. Mr. Hawthorne's corned beef is front left and ready. That's my glaze on the front right. I'm going for the glaze.
Here's Mr. Hawthorne's boiled brisket.
Here's my braised brisket. But it's not ready yet. Remember, I'm going for the glaze.
For the glaze, combine: 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed 4 TB soy sauce 2 TB Dijon mustard 1 tsp cayenne pepper 1 tsp dry mustard 1 tsp ground ginger
Mix thoroughly.
Brush or pour over brisket and return to a 450 degree oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Here's the boiled brisket. Notice the texture. It's rather stringy. And there's a lot of fat.
Pickin' off Mr. Hawthorne's boiled brisket.
Here's my rubbed, and braised, and glazed brisket.
Remove from pan and let rest for at least 10 minutes.
Slice and check out the texture. Nice and tight and smooth. Stay tuned for the colcannon.


Anonymous said...

So, if I understand correctly, you're saying we should use the flat cut?

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Anony, you understand correctly.
Flat cut. ;)

Marilyn said...

I just pulled my corned beef brisket (the flat cut!!!) out of the freezer. I will of course, be using your most excellent recipe.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Thanks, Mar.
You haven't made this before?

It's my favorite preparation of brisket.

SweetPhyl said...

You sold me on the rub...but I have to cook my St. Patty's brisket in the crock pot and won't be able to change the water so often as I'll be attending the Chowder Cook off on Saturday. Looking forward to your col-cannon recipe--kale or cabbage?

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Cabbage, Phyllis.

Marilyn said...

Yes, I made it last year, twice, after reading about it on your blog. I'd never made corned beef brisket before and feel no need to try any other recipes after making this one.