“I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to food.”

—James Joyce

St. Patrick’s Day is a sacred holiday for the Irish, and with it comes a few favorite dishes. Corned beef and cabbage have been a favorite since Bobby Burns laid pen to paper. Long before James Joyce confused the English language with free verse, the Irish have known what they want. 

Corned beef and cabbage is traditionally prepared with a brisket of beef, chunks of carrots, sauerkraut, boiled potatoes and boiled water. After condemning myself to my fellow Irishmen, I must confess that there are a number of approaches to brisket, the preferred meat for corned beef, that can further amplify the taste.

Cook off the brisket in the oven at 250 degrees for about four hours. Or better yet, seal the brisket. One can use a zip-lock bag.

Using a sous vide wand, simmer in water at 180 degrees for three hours. Seal in a marinade. This modern cooking device guarantees an even-cooked, tender meat.

If you bake the roast, consider applying barbecue sauce. Slow cooking generally wins the day. Best of all, the brisket can be smoked and finished with a honey bourbon glaze.

If you prefer the old fashioned recipe, exchange the water bath with a homemade chicken stock. Insert the whole brisket into a cooking casserole. Slow cook for three hours, then throw in the vegetables.

I like to blanch the potatoes and carrots first. At the last minute, add some good sauerkraut. Or hold the sauerkraut and ladle the brisket and vegetables over mashed potatoes with a large pat of Irish butter.

Taking an alternative route, I braised the brisket roast in olive oil and garlic until brown, then covered the meat with homemade stock and simmered the meat for three hours. Then, I added onion, thinly sliced carrots and small yellow potatoes. I covered the roast with a little bit of red wine, added two cups of mushrooms, three chili peppers, Yoshida’s marinade.

Next, I simmered the combination for another half hour. A splash of balsamic brightens the taste. I love to add a teaspoon of mushroom dust or a slew of wild mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and add cracked pepper.

I always cook lots of brisket because I love thinly sliced meat on a sandwich with rye bread, hot mustard and provolone cheese, the latter melted over toasted bread. Cajun mayo is splendid. Lettuce finishes the sandwich.

My wife always bakes soda bread with the Irish feast. For our beverage, beer replaces wine. I prefer a porter, stout or a thick ale. Dancing and singing or a good round of Celtic music brings out the Irish in everyone.

Corned beef brisket ingredients

Four pounds corned beef roast

½ pound potatoes

Three thinly sliced carrots

½ sliced onion

Two cups sliced mushrooms

¼ cup Yoshida’s marinade

½ cup red wine

Four cups homemade beef stock

Four tablespoons olive oil

Four cloves crushed and diced

Splash of balsamic vinegar

One tablespoon of mushroom dust

Salt and pepper

For the side: Irish soda bread

This is a quick bread and therefore requires no added yeast. Be sure to bake it long enough so that the center is done. You may need to wrap it in aluminum foil to prevent over-browning of the exterior crust.

Ingredients:

One and ¾ cups buttermilk

One large egg

Three cups all-purpose flour

One and ¼ cups whole wheat flour

Three Tablespoons granulated sugar

One teaspoon baking soda

One teaspoon salt

One teaspoon caraway seed, lightly ground

Five Tablespoons cold unsalted butter

One cup light raisins (sultanas)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a seasoned 10 to 12-inch cast iron skillet or a 9 to 10-inch baking pan. Set aside.

Whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Set aside.

Sift the flours, granulated sugar, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Lightly grind the caraway seeds with a mortar and pestle and add to the dry ingredients.

Cut the five tablespoons of unsalted butter into small cubes and cut into the dry ingredients until mixture is composed of coarse crumbs.

Add the raisins and briefly stir them in.

Pour the egg/buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir the dough until it comes together into a cohesive mass. Remove from bowl and knead briefly until smooth.

Shape into a round loaf and place on prepared pan. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, make an x on top of the loaf.

Bake in the oven until the loaf is nicely browned and the center is cooked through, about 45 minutes to one hour. Cover the bread with foil if you notice it is browning too much.

Remove from oven and allow to cool briefly before slicing.

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