Ireland, saluted

March 18, 2018

And the Emerald Isle is once again properly honored in the kitchen.

We have honored the venerable St. Patrick, and paid homage to our Irish roots, and had a fine dinner in the process.

And we have something like three pounds of corned beef in a couple of big chunks in the fridge, which I’ll get out later and slice and portion out. Some will go in the fridge for sandwiches and hash this week; some will get vacuum sealed and frozen for sandwiches and hash later. And some will be portioned out with cabbage, potatoes and carrots into homemade TV dinners to go in the freezer.

Some beer will be consumed in the process, at least if my sinuses clear up enough that the prospect of drinking anything alcoholic even commences to sound good. Spring is in the air, and so is pollen. Lots of pollen.

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Corned beef. Let the grocery do yours, if you haven’t.

If you have not yet corned your brisket for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day corned beef, you’re too late. That’s a week-long process.

However, all is not lost. Betake you to the grocery, where they are selling copious quantities of already-corned beef brisket that are just waiting for you to turn them into boiled dinners or sandwiches or hash — or pastrami.

(As an aside, just because I’m off social media for Lent and feel like sharing this, I have done two significant semi-culinary things today. I have purchased a tiller, the better to tend to the garden this summer, and I have purchased Yuengling beer — in Arkansas. The latter has been possible, meaning I no longer have to bootleg it back from Memphis, for less than a month, but it’s the first time I’ve bought any.

(This is due to the fact I want beer with my corned beef sandwiches next week. Or my pastrami sandwiches starting tonight, for which I have just put a batch of potato-onion rye roll dough in to rise so they’ll be freshly baked for dinner. Don’t you wish you were eating with me?)

Two-pound chunk of brisket, ready for the smoker.

And pastrami, out of the smoker, lacking only a 45 minute steam to be ready to eat.

I don’t guess I knew for years that pastrami and corned beef started out the same way — in a chilled week or 10-day bath in a spiced brine. It’s where they go after that that makes the difference.

Corned beef gets either wrapped in foil and slow-baked, or boiled with veggies, and more spices. Pastrami, on the other hand, gets a heavy coat of rub from a different spice blend, and goes into the smoker for a few hours.

Now I, being prepared, commenced corning my brisket last week. He’s basking in a five percent brine of salt, sugar and pickling spice in the storage room fridge, where he’ll stay until Saturday or Sunday. He’ll come out and get rinsed, then go into a Instant Pot full of fresh water and some more pickling spices for, oh, probably an hour, because brisket is NOT a tender cut of meat. Then I’ll add some potatoes and carrots, give him another 10 minutes, and some wedges of cabbage, and give him another 5, and that’ll be the name of Sunday dinner.

And his leftovers will be corned beef hash with an over easy egg more than one day the following week. And some corned beef will likely go into the freezer.

Why, then, did I buy three more packages of grocery store corned beef the other day at Aldi?

For a number of reasons:

  1. It was on sale. Point cut, which is my preference, was $1.99 a pound. (Flat cut was $4.99.)
  2. It was in packages of about two pounds apiece, which is about a good size for my household.
  3. It’s always good to have extra corned beef in the freezer.

So I brought three packages home, put two of them in the freezer, and set about making pastrami with the third.

Pastrami depends on a healthy amount of black pepper and coriander for its signature taste. I mixed up a rub of those, along with some onion powder, garlic powder and ginger, and patted the brisket down heavily. Out into the smoker on low it went.

About three hours later, with an internal temp of 150, I yanked it off, wrapped it in waxed paper, and put in the fridge overnight.

Next day, in between writing a labor report and tending to Amazing Grandchild 2, I pulled it out of the fridge and transferred it to the Instant Pot for a 40-minute steam bath. I let it cool down from there, and whacked off a slice or two.

Have mercy. This, y’all, is some pretty wonderful stuff. I may go back and get two or three more of those point cuts just so I can do this several times over the next few months. And chalk up another win for my little Masterbilt smoker, which is fast winning points as one of my favorite appliances.

So you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em betake yourselves to the grocery this week, before it’s all gone, and stock up on some corned beef. And stand by for breakfast and dinner delicacies, not to mention some fine sandwiches for lunch!



It has been a weekend full of cookery.

And basketball. And my Razorbacks, God bless ’em, made a valiant effort against North Carolina, but a couple of bad calls late turned it. Now, as long as Kentucky loses, I don’t care who wins.

Calls for a glass of wine.

I’ll save last night’s dinner, which was a fine, fine thing, for a separate post, but I’ll give you a couple of examples of the best of St. Patrick’s Day and the day after.

There was this:

Classic corned beef dinner. Except it was bottom round roast, and not brisket.

And then there was this:

Even better: corned beef hash the next morning.

Dear Sweet Baby Jesus, help me now. These were GOOD. REAL Good.

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Pastrami section, with rub, ready to go in. Corned beef in background.

Pastrami section, with rub, ready to go in. Corned beef in background.

Thursday, March 10:

We’re trying it one more time — corning our own beef. We would be self and me, who have managed to collectively screw up corned beef for the past few  years. This year, we are adhering slavishly to the brine recipe of Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, masters of charcuterie, and sous vide cooking directions from the eGullet food forum.

Today we went into the brine. In a big roasting pan, in the extra fridge out back. A 7.2 pound piece of brisket, which is a Big Damn Brisket, from my quarter-steer (which gives you an indication of how freakin’ big the steer was for him to have three more chunks this size).  It will get cut in half, as it is Way Too Much corned beef for one household, and served for St. Patrick’s Day next week, with some leftovers for sandwiches, and for corned beef hash, and more leftovers to be frozen. The other half will get coated with a pastrami rub and frozen, ready to be smoked at some future date.

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A belated Pi day

March 16, 2016

A salute to math geekery

A salute to math geekery

Every March 14, I feel like I have to bake a pie. Or, more particularly, a Pi.

And I’m not, as anyone with any familiarity with me can testify, any kind of a math whiz. It’s just my nod to geekdom, I guess.

Anyway, I didn’t want to bake a sweet pie, or Pi, as I had the remains of Sunday’s dessert in the fridge, and I’m not supposed to be eating sweets anyway. So I opted for a savory version.

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I hate it when this happens.

When everyone in the world raves about a recipe. And it’s a pretty simple recipe. And you make it, and it’s just OK, but you want it to be all that and a bag of chips because everyone else raves about it, so why don’t you love it as much as everyone else does?

To assuage my disappointment, I’m giving away stuff, in my first ever blog giveaway. To-wit, I’m giving away this:

Cute, colorful, sharp little things, they are!

Details later.

Anyway. Disappointment. I made mujaddara with spiced yogurt tonight. Now, bear in mind this won a contest on Food 52, and more than 100 comments from folks who made it and loved it, and it’s simple, simple stuff. And it didn’t wow me like it wowed everyone else. I mean, we are not talking Sweet Baby Jesus territory here; we ain’t even getting to angel or saint level.

You cook lentils. You slice and lightly caramelize onions. You cook jasmine rice, and you mix all those together (to let the f lavors marry, the recipe says). I did that. Then you spice your yogurt, a half-cup of same with a half-teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, Aleppo pepper and cinnamon, some mint, some lemon juice, and a little salt.

I did not have the requested fresh mint, of which it said use 3 tablespoons, so I used about one tablespoon of dry. And I did not have a fresh lemon, so I used what I approximated to be as much juice as there would be in a lemon. Apparently their lemons are less juicy than I thought they should be; the stuff was too lemony. And it would have benefitted from the onions being caramelized more.

I’ll try it again with less lemon before I write it off, but right now, it’s firmly in the “Meh” category.

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Corned beef.



They’re pretty. I’ll give ’em that. And the corned beef has a good flavor, albeit damn salty. I have not tried the pastrami, which just came off the grill, because, well, it had been there almost four hours, and coulda-shoulda-probably stayed longer, but it was about to be dark-thirty.
I’m just not real sure they’re worth the effort. Particularly not when your Sunday has consisted of breakfast, laundry, gym, pool, a six-pack of beer, and THEN, and only then, cooking.
Sigh. What I do for this effing blog. Well, that and the fact that I wanted that piece of my fridge back.