Barb Reese, manager of Focaccia's Delicatessen in downtown Toledo, has a special way of preparing corned beef. Last week she was perfecting her recipe for Black and Tan Corned Beef that will be used at the St. Patrick's Day celebration of the deli's sister restaurant, the Blarney.
Restaurant owner Ed Beczynski said the Blarney and the neighboring restaurant, Pizza Papalis, will have a weekend street party with a tent stretched between the two Monroe Street establishments in downtown Toledo. The party will be from Friday to next Tuesday, St. Patrick's Day.
In Ms. Reese's recipe, the Tan is the Bass beer that is used when cooking the corned beef. The Black is the sauce made with Guinness put on the corned beef, when served as a grilled sandwich.
Last week, Ms. Reese baked a 16-pound brisket at 275 degrees for 10 hours. "We have 400 pounds coming for the St. Patrick's Day weekend," Mr. Beczynski told me when I came to see their corned beef, which is cooked in Bass beer, onion, and garlic, then wrapped in foil.
"The steam and heat cooks it," says Ms. Reese.
Bass beer is "a nice hoppy English beer," says Mr. Beczynski. The flavor goes through the meat as it cooks; it tenderizes and falls apart.
The Black sauce is made with whole-grain mustard, Guinness beer, horseradish, parsley, and lemon juice. It is spooned over the corned beef served with melted Swiss cheese in the grilled sandwich ($7.95). For the entree, the corned beef is served with red skinned potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, and turnips ($8.95). Ms. Reese also makes Bailey's Cheesecake for St. Patrick's Day.
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Serving corned beef dinners or sandwiches are classic American ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, whether you dine out or make your own corned beef.
Corned beef is brisket or round cured in a seasoned brine. It can be purchased fully cooked from the deli, but it's easy enough to cook at home.
Ms. Reese makes the restaurant's corned beef in the oven, with each brisket wrapped in foil to steam. Corned beef also can be cooked in a slow-cooker or on the stove top in a Dutch oven.
Few of us will find the old-fashioned corned beef, like my mother-in-law used to make or that high-end chefs such as cookbook authors Vitaly Paley and Kimberly Paley describe (and prepare) in The Paley's Place Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Pacific Northwest (10 Speed Press, $35). That can take 4 or 5 days to brine in spices in the refrigerator.
The old-fashioned corned beef is grayish-pink and very salty; the newer corned beef is bright and rosy and made without nitrites, which are said to be carcinogenic, according to the Food Lovers Companion.
Most of the corned beef sold in meat cases has a seasoning packet to use when cooking. If it doesn't, use 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, 6 whole cloves, and one bay leaf. Be sure to remove the bay leaf before serving, advises Pillsbury Fast Slow Cooker Cookbook.
Fresh brisket and corned beef brisket are cooked in liquid to cover the beef, according to beefitswhatsfordinner.com.
The secret to preparing corned beef brisket, is cooking it long and slow, tightly covered. It needs to gently simmer. The steam created during simmering ensures fork-tender, moist, flavorful beef.
Do not boil it. A high temperature does not speed up the cooking process - it toughens the brisket.
Let the meat cook unattended. There is no need to turn the brisket or to peek at it. Each time the cover is removed, heat and steam escape and the tenderizing process is interrupted.
To determine when it is done, insert a meat fork into the thickest part of the brisket. When this is done without resistance and the fork releases easily when pulled out, the beef is completely cooked and tender. Do not overcook or the brisket will be dry and stringy.
Carve the brisket across the grain in thin slices to maximize the tenderness.
Corned Beef and Cabbage from Pillsbury Fast Slow Cooker Cookbook is flavored with one can of beer and the seasoning packet. It is made with red potatoes, carrots, and onions, and is served with a sauce made with applesauce and Dijon mustard.
Classic Corned Beef and Roasted Vegetables and Lemon-Mustard Sauce from The Beef Checkoff, a Cattlemen's Beef Board marketing and research program, is baked in the oven similar to Ms. Reese's method. Instead of regular cabbage, the recipe calls for savoy cabbage, which is a mellow-flavored, loose-leafed full head with crinkled leaves. Parsnips and carrots are cooked with the cabbage during the last 55 minutes of the baking. A Lemon Mustard Sauce is served with the corned beef and vegetables.
Corned beef can be used for several meals, especially as sandwiches and in Reubens. The classic corned beef sandwich is served on rye bread and layered with Swiss cheese.
The Reuben was probably invented at Reuben's Restaurant in New York City in 1914, according to cookbook author Richard J. Perry in The Good Home Cookbook. It is a combination of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on rye, which is grilled. Some folks use Thousand Island dressing instead of Russian dressing and for those who don't like sauerkraut, fresh cole slaw is served on the side or even in the sandwich.
Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.
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Recipes are on Page 2