The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Mindful Corned Beef

March 14th, 2021 by Ed Bruske

 

In our quest for a St. Patrick’s corned beef and cabbage that doesn’t turn into an unidentifiable mush, we’ve embraced a method for cooking all of the ingredients separately a day before serving. Now that our local butcher is supplying the cured brisket, we’ve got a new way of cooking that as well.

Everyone’s experienced the traditional corned beef and cabbage dish where all of the ingredients are thrown into a pot and boiled like crazy until it looks–and tastes–like something you’d get from an Army field kitchen. Since the traditional ingredients–cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes and the beef–all cook at different rates, boiling them all together guarantees failure.

Starting our latest effort a day ahead with a pot of boiling broth (chicken works fine, I used what we make at home from beef bones), I cooked thickly sliced carrots first because they take the longest, then parsnips, then golden beets, then small white onions, thick slices of leeks, wedges of cabbage and finally the potatoes, diced large with skins on. Each vegetable in its turn was cooked until just done, then removed from the pot with a slotted spoon and decoratively arranged on a ceramic platter to cool. Eventually I covered the platter with plastic and placed it in the refrigerator overnight.

As to the beef, we bought a 4 lb. slab of cured brisket from our local butcher, Mr. Yushak, and cut it in half, wrapping the other half for the freezer. Originally I had planned to boil the brisket as usual, but Mr. Yushak insisted I not do that, since he had applied a complicated mix of spices to the beef and had meticulously tended it over a 12-day “dry” cure, meaning the beef was never submerged in a conventional brine. He suggested I cook the meat “like a pot roast,” or, in the alternative, steam it so as not to dilute the intense spice flavor.

My solution was to re-use the pot and broth (with more water added) that I’d cooked the vegetables in. I placed three ceramic ramekins at the bottom of the pot and laid a round wire cooling rack on top of these to hold the meat above the liquid. After bringing the pot to a boil and sealing the lid with a piece of parchment paper, I placed the pot in a 180-degree F oven and let it steam. We found the meat was done to our taste after six hours. (You could cook it longer at a lower temperature, or shorter at a higher temp–low and slow yields the tenderest meat.)

Yesterday we had friends over and greeted them with a platter of Irish cheeses and an Irish whiskey cocktail. As an hors d’oeuvre, we offered shots of our reserved cooking liquid, which by this time was loaded with all the flavors of? our assorted vegetables and the drippings from the beefy brisket.

The plattered vegetables were now warming in the over, as was a separate platter of the sliced brisket. When mealtime arrived, we simply displayed the platters on the kitchen island with a small pitcher of the cooking juice as dressing and a horse radish cream sauce to be spooned onto the meat as desired. People happily served themselves.

That would be our idea of a perfect corned beef and cabbage.

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Perfect Deviled Eggs

May 18th, 2020 by Ed Bruske

We love deviled eggs, but there’s so much anxiety around the issue of the shells peeling cleanly from the hard-boiled eggs. It’s such a disappointment when they don’t, leaving big, unsightly gouges in the those perfectly formed whites. The reason for this–scientifically speaking–is because of membranes–called chalazea–that attach the egg to the inside of the shell called . This is supposed to keep the egg centered and safe while a chick is developing. Chick or no, the egg will cling to the shell when fresh. Only as the egg gets older do these membranes degrade and the clinging ease.

For this reason, common wisdom held that it was better to use old eggs for hard-boiling (poaching is just the opposite–use eggs as fresh as possible). But how are you supposed to know how old those eggs are in the carton you just purchased?

We’ve tried all kinds of methods for hard-boiled eggs to solve the peeling problem. For a while we were using a complicated process recommended by Julia Child that involved immersing the cooked eggs alternately in hot, then iced water. That did not always work.

But now we’ve discovered a way to hard-boil eggs that always peel perfectly. We don’t care how young or old our eggs are any more.

To hard-boil six to eight eggs, mix six cups water with 1/4 cup distilled vinegar and 1 Tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil. Gently place the eggs in the boiling water and cook at a slow boil uncovered for 14 minutes. Then drain the eggs and run them under cold water in the pot until they are cool to the touch. Peel. You’ll be amazed how easily the shells are removed.

Now you are ready to make whatever deviled eggs you prefer. My favorite has a Szechuan kick:

After slicing the eggs in half lengthwise, display the whites on a plate lined with fresh salad greens. Mash the yolks in a mixing bowl, then blend with 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise (or to taste), 1 Tablespoon garlic chili paste and a pinch of salt. In a skillet, toast 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, then grind to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Add this to the yolk mix.

Spoon or pipe the yolk mix into the whites and garnish with chopped chives.

Voila! A perfect start to your next virtual cocktail party.

Stay safe, y’all!

 

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