She works with willing hands.

Corned Beef with Cabbage and Potatoes

I’m a firm believer in seasonal cooking.  Typically this means utilizing locally grown produce, which helps out our local farmers (you know, that whole farm-to-table thing?).  Plus it’s hip.

Just call me Hipster Unbored Housewife.  Or don’t.  That would be weird.

You can use this fancy schmancy Seasonal Ingredient Map from epicurious to help you discover what is fresh in your area.

Unfortunately for those of us who live in the northeast, we don’t have local produce available this time of year.  So my version of seasonal cooking in the wintertime is preparing meals that utilize the freshest available grocery store produce while matching the feel of the month or holiday.  And given that we’re already into the second week in March, and we’ll be donning those shamrocks soon, I thought it appropriate to cook my corned beef brisket with cabbage and potatoes.  I’m not Irish, but I’ll celebrate right alongside them if I get to eat this.

Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional, hearty Irish dish.  I was curious about its origins, so I found this informative little article from the History Channel.  Apparently, Irish folks originally prepared this dish with pork, but started using beef instead after immigrating to the United States.  It was, and still remains, a satisfying and cost-effective way to feed your family.

Cabbage is a cool-weather crop and is currently in season in California, Florida and Texas, so we have plenty of it in our local market.  I use green cabbage for this particular dish.

And in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish, corned beef brisket is readily available in the market right now.  I snatched up a two and a half pound, pre-cured corned beef brisket from my local Wegmans.

Some folks brine the beef themselves, but I am not one of those folks.  It takes about a week to pickle corned beef, during which time the meat sits in a liquid brining solution.  I’m sure that the result is tasty, but that method is far too time intensive for this unbored housewife.

Here are the ingredients for my version:

corned beef ingredientsThrow your corned beef into a large pot.  I put mine in fat side down.  Add a bottle of beer to the pot.  I used Stella Artois because it’s Jersey Boy’s favorite and it’s all we had in the fridge.  Highbrow or lowbrow beer is fine.  Miller Light would be A-okay.  Just pour it in.

Now open the spice packet that comes with most pre-brined corned beef briskets and dump it on top of the meat.

spices

The spice packet contains a combination of mustard seed, coriander, cracked bay leaf, crushed chilies, cracked cinnamon, fennel, whole black pepper and dill seed.

Now grab a white onion.  I used one because my brisket was fairly small.  Use two onions for a larger brisket.

First halve your onion.

onion halved

Then quarter it and add it to the pot.

onions in pot

Next add a teaspoon of minced garlic.

garlic on brisket

Grab one big or two small bay leaves and put them in the pot.

bay leaves

Measure one-half tablespoon of coarsely ground black pepper.

coursely ground

Add the pepper to your other ingredients.

ingredients atop

That’s almost pretty, no?  (Well, I guess as pretty as spices sitting atop cured meat can be.)

Now pour in just enough water to cover your corned beef.  Mine was floating just a bit, which is fine.

floating

Bring your ingredients to a rapid boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer and cover.  Allow the meat to cook for two hours.

These are the kind of notes that I leave myself:

note

For inquiring minds, that reads: “2 hours, put veg[etables] in @ 4:00.”

Whatever works, right?

After the meat cooks for two hours, open the lid and toss some baby carrots into the pot.  I used twenty-five baby carrots.

carrots

You can use twenty-six,

or twenty-four,

or seventeen.

It’s not an exact science.

Now look at these cute little potatoes:

baby potatoes

Aren’t they precious?  Bless their hearts.

They are this type:

bag

I scientifically measured three handfuls, washed them well, and tossed them into the pot.

potatoes into pot

potatoes in pot

Re-cover the pot and simmer for an additional thirty minutes.

Now for the cabbage.

You have to eyeball this one.  Roughly cut several small-ish chunks of cabbage.  Go with the proper amount for your size of brisket.

Wash it in a colander,

cabbage

and add it to the pot.

cabbage in pot

Cook for an additional thirty minutes.

When the brisket is done, remove it from the pot and place it on a carving board.  Cut off the fat pad on the bottom side of the brisket.  It should slide off easily.  Now slice the corned beef, ideally against the grain.

Plate it and dig in.

Make it for St. Patrick’s Day!

final

INGREDIENTS

2.5 lb. corned beef brisket, including spice packet (this size was sufficient for two adults and three small children)

1 bottle of beer (nothing too dark)

1 white onion

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 big or 2 small bay leaves

1/2 tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper

25 baby carrots

3 handfuls baby potatoes

green cabbage

36 Feels Pretty Good

Yesterday was my thirty-sixth birthday.  I know that I’m still considered “young” according to many, and I certainly don’t feel “old.”  But as the fine crows feet slowly gather at the corners of my eyes, and I ascertain with dismay that I’m one year too old to be considered one of those much-discussed “millennials” I can’t help but feel thoroughly grown up.

But as they say, “age ain’t nuthin but a number” so I elect to push aside the image of myself growing ever closer to the pinnacle of that darn age-related hill.  You’re not over the hill until you allow yourself to feel that way, right?

My day began with gusto as I shook what my mama gave me at my Mojo exercise class.  That’s right, my favorite exercise class is called “Mojo” which I love because it reminds me that I have it (mojo, that is).  I talk about the class here.

And just look what my exercise buddies gave me:

birthday

While I’m at it, can I just say that I am tired of hearing that women don’t encourage and support each other – that we’ve all been socialized into catty, jealous gossips?

It simply isn’t true.

Does cattiness ever happen?  Sure.

But in my experience it is the exception, rather than the rule.  I have amazingly encouraging and supportive women in my life – women who seek to bolster each other with kindness and gestures of love.

If you don’t have women like this in your life – find them.

They may not be your age and they may not look anything like you – but they’re out there, all over the place.  Maybe it’s the grandma who sits in the cubicle across from you.  Maybe it’s the high school girl who lives next door (just imagine what an encouragement you could be to her).  Seek out these friendships.  You’ll be amazed by what you find and how you will be blessed.

Sorry, just give me a moment to step down from my podium.

Okay, I’m back.

After Mojo, my family took me to a scrumptious lunch and then I headed to the nail salon for a touch of solitary pampering (oh the joy).

I left looking like this:

mani pedi

Jersey Boy had this boxed up and waiting for me at home:

dress

And may I just say that there is something terribly romantic about a man picking out and purchasing a dress for his wife to wear out that evening?  I felt a little bit like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

Except I’m not a prostitute.

And Jersey Boy isn’t a millionaire.

And we’re married.

Oh, you get what I mean, right?

After slipping into my LBD and leaving our children in the capable hands of my MIL, we headed to Paris.

Yes, that Paris – the quaint French bistro and jazz café in the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia.

I enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir, escargot, short rib beef bourguignon, classic crème brulee and a strong cup of decaf coffee with cream.

After dinner, my LBD could have benefitted from a bit of alteration to take out the waist by an inch (or three), but in the spirit of embracing the age of thirty-six, I didn’t much mind.

It was a birthday well spent surrounded by the amazingly supportive people in my life, and I gotta say, so far thirty-six feels pretty good.