S had an event Friday night, so while everyone else was out drowning the shamrock, me and the boys were home watching Harry Potter. Saturday became our St Patty's day and it started with the boys trying their luck on the iced sugar cookies.
Next came the corned beef. After five days of curing, it was time to put on the boil. I was concerned because I had mished mashed two recipes together, the wet brine and the dry rub. I would not be able to tell until it was done whether or not it was cured too much or not enough. The color on the on the outside of the uncooked brisket looked purple to brown and the book did not provide any guidance on what it should look like. I was additionally worried about the cooking times: Both recipes said to cook "two or three hours or until fork tender." I find that direction rather vague. I will concede that since I "went off book," that my results were (very) far from guaranteed, but when it come to cooking time I always cook to temperature. I find cooking to internal temperature is the best way the have consistently good results. But remember kids, just like when your are navigating a supertanker into the Port of Houston, Use more than one chart. Triangulate between two thermometers and cooking time.
Anyway back to the Corned Beef. I looked around the web for a cooking temp and the closest I got was for a Pastrami on the Weber smoker. It suggested 160F. It took only ninety minutes to get to 160 and that was too quick. Besides it definitely was not fork tender. I slowed the oven down and let it go to about 188, another ninety minutes. The whole time I worried about what I was going to get but I also started to realize I did not know what I wanted to get. All I had hoped was that it would not be too salty and the color would be right.
But the smell. Last year I made boiled a corned beef (corned beef from the store) and cooking it smelled like corned beef. I remember when we ate it we thought mmm this is good corned beef, maybe a little salty, but tastes like every other corned beef. The corned beef today smelled different. The cloves and the allspice dominated the house. It smelled like Christmas. Now I am worried that I will have a piece of meat that tastes more like mulled wine than a Ruben.
As you can see from the picture below the brisket noticeably shrank. But it got thicker. The color, Boiled Brown.
So the moment of truth, I cut it into it by about a third and sampled. The color unbelievably even and red. And the taste, well it was worth all the worrying. The layers of flavor in the meat led me to understand how the each ingredient played an important role in the cure. I had expected salt to be the lead player in this medley with the chorus rounding out the flavor, but it was an ensemble piece( A Collective, to use the parlance of our times) where no single ingredient stood out. And it definitely tasted like corned beef.
Next time I will probably only cook it to 160. I strained the broth and used it to boil red potatoes, carrots, parsnips and cabbage. And lastly the Gravlaks...the simplest magic that yields such tasty fish.