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Food and Drink

It’s the perfect time to make corned beef and cabbage

  • Author: Kim Sunée
    | Alaska cooking
  • Updated: March 12
  • Published March 12

Corned beef and cabbage with turnips and prunes (Photo by Kim Sunée)

For this humble meat and vegetable dish, you’ll definitely want a spoon. And perhaps a table of people you love with whom to share the richly flavored broth and tender meat.

While dreading last weekend’s Costco trip for items everyone seems to be stocking up on, I found myself wandering aisles that seemed much more interesting than the rows of shelves long-emptied of cleaning supplies. Near the smoked sausages, I came across a refrigerated bin piled with Snake River Farms American Wagyu corned beef. Wagyu, a Japanese beef cattle breed, is highly prized for rich marbling, tenderness and flavor. Seeing such high-quality meat at a big-box-store price, I stocked up on my version of “essentials” while others zipped by with carts piled high with paper products, cereal bars and the last of the sanitizer.

Corned beef is basically brisket that’s been cured with pickling spices; it can be very salty depending on the potency and length of time of the brining process, so make sure to rinse it well. If you want a quick fix, buy a filet, but if you want a deeply flavorful dish that’s comforting in these uncertain times, then go for the lesser cuts. Lesser cuts, like brisket and shank and shoulder, are tougher pieces but, with some extra love, can end up being a favorite — and more economical — choice. You’ll need a few hours, mostly hands-off, of cooking time — about 45 minutes per pound of meat.

Leftovers are perfect for an open-faced sandwich of rye bread, sauerkraut, sliced beef and provolone or Swiss cheese broiled in the oven until bubbling. Or pull any leftover meat into jagged strips and toss into a salad of crunchy cabbage and radishes; crisp up any bits in a skillet with red chile and garlic for soft tacos; or cook with potatoes and eggs for breakfast hash. I’ve been told that I’m not the most savvy survivalist but if you’re stuck with me for some reason, you’d be very well-fed.

Corned beef and cabbage with turnips and prunes

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 (3 ½ to 4 pound) corned beef brisket

1 yellow or white onion, quartered

2 large carrots, sliced

1 large turnip, quartered or cut into eighths

1 cabbage, quartered (green or Savoy)

3 cloves garlic

1/3 cup whole pitted prunes

For serving: roasted or mashed potatoes; cornichons and sauerkraut; Dijon or whole grain mustard; prepared horseradish

Rinse corned beef well to remove any excess layers of salt and spices. Place corned beef in a large pot; add water to cover by one inch. Place pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Skim froth as it rises to the surface. After 20 minutes, taste the broth. If too salty, remove meat and start with fresh water/broth/wine. Once liquid comes to a boil, reduce heat to low; add the accompanying spice packet, if there is one, if desired. Cover pot, and let cook at a gentle simmer 3 hours. Add onion, carrot, turnip, garlic, cabbage quarters and prunes, if using. Let simmer another 30 to 60 minutes or until meat is fork-tender and vegetables are cooked through but not mushy. Serve broth in small bowls or cups. Slice beef and serve vegetables in a shallow large bowl or plate, along with cornichons, sauerkraut, mustard, and horseradish.

Change up the flavor profile:

• Instead of cabbage, add in 1 (14-oz) jar of chopped cabbage kimchi and serve with steamed rice

• Add broth and 1 (14-oz) can diced tomatoes; omit sauerkraut and serve with olives and garnish with basil and grated Parmesan cheese

• Stir harissa paste into the broth and serve with steamed couscous