~ My Braised & Brown Sugar Glazed Corned Beef ~
A funny thing happened at the grocery store yesterday -- all the corned beef was on sale and Joe came home with two beautiful specimens. I always make my brown sugar glazed corned beef in March, around or for St. Patrick's day, which is a fun holiday even if you aren't Irish -- there is a bit of Leprechaun in everyone. I make it during the rest of the year too because my recipe makes one of the best deli-style corned beef sandwiches you will ever taste. Withhold referring to my last statement as arrogant until you have made and tasted my corned beef.
Even though I love corned beef, it wasn't until our children left the nest that I started making it. Corned beef and cabbage was not high on their list of favorite foods. One day, about five years ago, I decided to come up with a "Mel" version of the classic, specifically for sandwiches. I am a lover of sweet and savory combinations, so it seemed natural to finish off my savory stovetop braised brisket in the oven with a layer of brown sugar on top of it. After all, doesn't everything taste better with brown sugar? The end result was beyond delicious. There's more:
I wanted to develop a braising liquid which was a sauce for dipping or drizzling on sandwiches too (not just a brothy soup). My goal: put a new twist on corned beef and take "the briny edge off" of traditional corned beef, cabbage & potatoes. Using tomatoes was obvious. Whole allspice, bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves (to replace the mustard seed seasoning that comes with each brisket) made my mouth water!
Then, as it always is in the world of recipe development, you need the perfect home-baked dinner or sandwich roll to serve with the brisket or serve the brisket on. These needed to be firm-textured and full of flavor. You can find my recipe for ~ Crusty Caraway Seed Dinner/Sandwich Rolls ~ in Categories 5 & 12!
No time to bake rolls? Buy the best dark or rye bread you can!
A bit about corned beef: Corned beef is beef brisket that has been brine-cured in a solution of salt and water typically used for pickling or preserving food. Brisket is the cut of beef taken from the breast section unter the first five ribs. It is sold without the bone and divided into two sections. The flat-cut has minimal fat and is more expensive than the more flavorful point-cut.
Brisket requires long, slow cooking and is best when braised. The term "corned" comes from the English use of the word "corn", meaning: a process to which small particles, such as grains of salt have been added. Two types of corned beef are available and depend upon the butcher and/or the region. Old-fashioned corned beef is grayish-pink in color and very salty. New-style has less salt and is a bright rosy red. The most famous corned beef entree is the Irish corned beef and cabbage. The second is the Reuben sandwich, consisting of generous layers of thinly-sliced corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut served on a rye bread (either cold or grilled) with a dressing (either Russian or Thousand Island). I think my corned beef recipe, along with its unique sauce, whether served as an entree or a sandwich, is in the race with both of these!!!
2 3 1/2-4 pound flat- or point-cut corned beef briskets, at room temperature
4 cups water (total throughout recipe)
24 whole allspice
8 whole bay leaves
4 whole cinnamon sticks
24 whole cloves
2 12-14-ounce yellow or sweet onions, coarsely chopped or chunked
1 1/2 ounces whole garlic cloves, about 10-12 large garlic cloves
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
4 tablespoons sugar
1-1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, more or less, to taste
12 ounces dark brown sugar, for topping roasts
4 ounces dark brown sugar, for adding to braising liquid/sauce
~ Step 1. Remove briskets from packages and discard seasoning packets. Rinse briskets under cold water and place in bottom of a 12-quart stockpot to which 2 cups of water has been added. Add the allspice, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and cloves to the water, dividing them equally on both sides of the meat (not on top of it).
~ Step 3. Add the second 2 cups of water, the crushed tomatoes, sugar and red pepper flakes. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook, covered, for 3 hours.
~ Step 4. This is what the meat and the braising liquid will look like after 3 hours of simmering. During the cooking process, the liquid/juices in the stockpot will have reduced by about 1" and each brisket will have shrunk by almost one-half its original size.
Did I forget to mention that your entire kitchen smells wonderful right now?
~ Step 5. Place a rack in the bottom of a 3-quart casserole to which 1/4" of water has been added. Using a large spatula, to support the meat underneath, transfer the briskets, fat side up, onto the rack. Spoon the 12 ounces of dark brown sugar evenly over the top. Stir the remaining 4 ounces of dark brown sugar into the stockpot of "sauce".
Note: The reason you add water to the bottom of the casserole is because the water prevents any sugar that drips to the bottom of the dish from burning and smoking. Watch this process carefully during the last 5 minutes as sugar does go from browned to burned very quickly.
Remove from oven and rest 15-30 minutes prior to slicing and serving.
~ Step 7. When the sugar-topped briskets go into the oven, return stockpot to stovetop and return the braising liquid/"sauce" to a simmer. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has reduced and thickened, stirring frequently, about 30-35 minutes (while the sugar on the briskets is caramelizing). While the meat is resting, using a slotted spoon, take 1-2 minutes to remove the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and as many of the allspice and cloves as you can find.
~ Step 8. After the meat is rested, and the rest period is very important, slice the meat as thick or as thin as you like it, cutting it with the grain, which keeps it from falling apart -- it is for sandwiches. This luxurious meat will slice like butter!
When serving, remember to place a small bowl of warmed sauce to the side of each sandwich for dipping or drizzling.
Go ahead -- take a taste of that corned beef!
Special Equipment List: 12-quart, wide-bottomed stockpot w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife; 13" x 9" x 2"/3-quart casserole; rack sized appropriately to fit into casserole dish; large/wide spatula; slotted spoon
Cook's Note: For an Eastern European take on corned beef and cabbage, you might want to try my ~ Mom's Traditional Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup ~. You can find the recipe in Categories 2, 3, 4, 12 or 20!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)