Set to the tune of: The Zutons' "Pressure Point"
Alrighty roo (or roux if you prefer), this one is gonna be a little different and I'll tell you why. Right now you should have your brisket brining or dry rubbed and you should be waiting patiently for your corning guide and humble narrator to give you further instruction. I went with the dry rub (including the TCM). Now I want to give you the next steps (i.e. the fun part: cooking) but since my brisket won't be ready for a couple of days, I'll have no pictures. Hopefully I can describe it all well enough and I'll post the pics afterwards. That's ok, isn't it?
The first thing you're going to want to do is give your meat a little rinse. Then wash off your brisket. All you're looking for is to get the big particles off of it. We're gonna be braising this guy, so were gonna need a single pot that can hold the meat. If you cut it into two pieces for the curing process, that's ok, just make sure your pot can hold both pieces simultaneously. Actually, a word on your cooking vessel. It should be sturdy, big enough to accommodate your meat, but not overly large....this will cut down on the liquid needed to braise. It should be oven safe and have a nicely fitting lid. Now since we're braising in Guinness and not wine, you can even go with a cast iron pot (if we were using wine, the acidity would impart a metallic taste).
Now lemme ask ya: Don't you hate it when someone makes corned beef and all of the veggies and cabbage and stuff are mushy as hell? Yeah...me too. And we're going to avoid it, dammit! We're going to do it by cooking our flavoring ingredients first, straining all that shit out, and then adding the veggies we're actually going to eat and cooking them till they're perfect (perfection being in the eye of the beholder of course). It's gonna cost you a little more in veggie expense, but it'll be worth it. Carrots, celery, and onions are typically things most folks have at all times anyway. If not...they're cheap and easy to put into just about anything. So....ready? Here we go!
Yer gonna need:
Your rinsed brisket, patted dry
Pepper to taste
3 Tbl Vegetable Oil
3-4 Carrots, coarsely chopped
5-6 Celery ribs, coarsely chopped
2 Medium Onions, coarsely chopped
2 Heads of Garlic, halved
2 Tbl Thyme, dried
2 Tbl Oregano, dried
1 Tbl Chicken Base
1 Tbl Beef Base
A six pack of Guinness
That's pretty much the basics. What's great about the braising process and this recipe in particular is that there's a lot of room for substitutions and alternate flavors. Want Rosemary? Put in some Rosemary. Want some Turnips, Parsnips or Rutabagas? You got it. Some other options: Mushrooms, some more of the pickling spice, bay leaves.....the list goes on and on. And remember, we're straining out this first round, so you don't need to worry about cutting too finely, or having stems or all that jazz in there. It's all coming out.
1. Heat your stockpot, dutch oven or whatever you're using over a medium flame. Season your beef with the pepper (you shouldn't have to add more salt as it's been sitting in a salt solution for several days). Add the oil and heat until it sorta shimmers a little. Then carefully add the meat and brown on all sides. If it smokes or spatters excessively, lower your heat. By the end, you should have some little browned bits (called fond in cooking circles). That's a good thing. Add your vegetables and garlic and let it sautee for just a little bit to soften and maybe take a little color. If it's too dry, add a little more oil.
2. Deglaze the pot with one of the Guinness. Guinnesses? I don't know....just use one bottle. Stir the pot, scraping up on the fond to dislodge it from the bottom. Add your herbs, your chicken and beef bases to dissolve and incorporate. Then add your beef back into the pot, using the aromatics as a sort of base. Add the rest of the Guinness so that it half-way covers the meat. If there's some leftover, good work! Drink it and say the famous Gaelic phrase: "That Braised In Captivity guy is a freakin genius!" Yeah...look it up. If there ISN'T any left over, I'm sorry....although I am still a genius. If there isn't enough AND you don't have your meat covered to the appropriate level...top off with water and use a smaller pot next time (still a genius). Now bump your heat up to high and get this potion up to a nice simmer. You don't want to go full boil as it'll cause the meat to toughen up. Once it starts to simmer, you can either leave it on the stove to do it's thing (which makes checking on it, and adjusting easier) or you can put it into a 350 degree oven (this clears range space and ensures that gentle heat is what's cooking your beef). Either method will work.
How long are you gonna cook it for? If you said 'till it's done' you're absolutely right and you win nothing. Except my admiration....which is similar to nothing. Basically we're on a sliding scale here. Right now were at Tough as Hell and at the end of the scale is Mushy as Fuck. We don't want to be at either end, but rather in the middle where slicing, tender beef, and corned beef sandwiches lie. So start with 2 hours. Stick a fork in it. You know how you like it. If it's not there yet, keep going. By the 6 hour mark, you just leaving pull apart tender and starting your journey towards Mushy...so watch it.
Yer gonna need:
2 Heads Green Cabbage, cut to your liking
2 Carrots, cut to your liking
3-4 Celery Ribs, cut to your liking
1 Small Onion, cut to your liking
Again, there are some options here. Some people like to add some caraway, mustard seed, mushrooms or what have you. If you want it there, do it. Just remember to add it to the pot in order of cooking times.
1. Pull the meat out of the pot and allow to rest on a cutting board. Cover with a layer of tin foil.
2. Strain your braising liquid through a fine mesh strainer. REMEMBER: IT'S THE OPPOSITE OF PASTA!! We're saving the LIQUID, discarding the solids. So make sure you have a bowl or another pot to catch all that goodness (and it will be delicious at this point....and only gonna get better). Give the original pot a rinse to get rid of any leaves or cooking scum. Add the braising liquid back into the pot and turn up the heat to medium-high or high. We're looking to reduce this a little. If the amount and the flavor are already to your liking....skip it. But if not, we want to get this down to a nice, flavorful broth. Not too strong...not too salty...and in enough quantity to cover and cook all of our round 2 veggies. Once you've got it where you want it, it's time for the veggies!
3. With the liquid still boiling, add your potatoes, cook until about half-way done. Then add your carrots, celery, and onion. This would also be the point at which you add any other herbs or flavorings. Continue to cook until the mixture is back to a simmer or boil. Then hit it with your cabbage. Cook until the cabbage, veggies, and potatoes are to the doneness level you like.
4. While that's all going on, slice up your corned beef however you want. Or pull it apart...whatever you've decided. By the time you're done (or shortly after), your veggies should be nice and tender, but still toothsome. Your potatoes should have a nice buttery texture. Your cabbage should be soft but not stinking....and your broth should be like sex: Hot and flavorful and tasting distinctly of fine booze.
Thats, it, gang! You've got yourself a bangin' corned beef and now that you're done eating, time to put on some silly green glasses and head out to the bars to watch scantily-clad college girls throw up on their high heels while their dates get the car.
Till next time, brasiers! Now where did I put that duck confit....