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17 Mar 2010

Corned beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, and broccoli salad. Corned beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, and broccoli salad.

Chris and I have (by happenstance, really) spent our last two St. Patty's days in New Orleans. It's a nice tradition, but not one we can afford to do every year. So I wanted a more sustainable tradition, as the day has become a bit special to us. As it approached, corned beef questions and such kept popping up on my cooking communities, so I decided, what the heck, we could have a traditional meal involving corned beef and potatoes, that'd be an easy enough tradition.

So I looked up Alton Brown's corned beef recipe; very few of his recipes have steered me wrong. Typed it up in my recipe system, which involved asking Chris to up the time limit he'd put there. He really did a double take, it was rather amusing. He'd limited the time required field (which is in minutes) to four digits, probably thinking surely no recipe would require more than 6.9 days. But corning beef takes 10 days, at least according to this recipe. So I now have a limit of 69 days, wewt! :-)

And then I started hunting down the ingredients. The saltpeter (also called saltpetre) was the fun one. I decided to try first at the gourmet food shop, but they'd never heard of it. One clerk took out a book I think was a stock book to see if they could order it, the other googled it. After they read about it a bit (from varied sources, but there's you a link to a decent one), they told me to warn them when I found my saltpeter so they could avoid my house! It's apparently a component of gunpowder. Fun. I went to the chemist's next, because Cook's Thesaurus told me to check for it at drug stores. The chemist (pharmacist, and more) didn't have any, but as I was at least the second person to ask for some recently, he offered to see about starting to keep it in stock. I love small shops. I thanked him but declined; I doubt I'll need it regularly. So, we ordered it online. In the process, we discovered that there exists this stuff called biltong, from South Africa, which sounds strikingly similar to beef jerky, neither of which are readily available here. So we shall look into directions for making biltong in our quest to get less expensive beef jerky for me.

But, all that later. The saltpeter came, I got some brisket from the butcher, and we put together the brine and started the beef corning on the 7th. Then the 17th came, and a few hours before dinner, I started the corned beef cooking, and then we had dinner!

The broccoli salad was thanks to cookie_chef, it's her recipe. We had some mayonnaise left in the fridge from when we made it the other day that I was worried about going off, so when she mentioned that and I saw it used a good amount of mayonnaise, I was all over that. I actually prepared it on the night of the 15th for dinner the 16th, but stuff happened and we wound up going out to eat on the 16th instead, so we had this broccoli salad on the 17th instead, and it'd kept quite nicely.

The mashed potatoes were our usual; the gravy was Bisto, because we had enough going on in the kitchen that I didn't feel like making gravy, too.

Only a couple of hours before dinner, tripping upon a post in one of my expat groups, did I learn that this corned beef was completely new to Chris. Apparently, in the UK, corned beef is some hideous-looking stuff that comes out of a can. Seriously. Chris never did pipe up that he didn't know what this weird American thing was, until I saw that post and asked him about it. He was just along for the ride. I love him. :-) When telling his mother about this later whilst visiting her, after I explained corned beef, a lightbulb went off over her head, as she suddenly made sense of a scene in a movie she'd once seen - she'd been wondering the whole time, "Where's the corn?" Heh.

Anyways, so yes, dinner was very good, we're going to keep that corned beef recipe. We halved it, using about 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beef to start with (and after cooking had about 550 grams (1.2 pounds), if memory serves), which made enough for our dinner, one sandwich later, and it looks like about two sandwich's worth in the freezer. Not sure if I'm supposed to freeze corned beef or not, but if I hadn't, it'd have gone off sat in the fridge.

The broccoli salad was yummy, too, though next time I should be more careful to start with better broccoli. And I think we'll leave the broccoli raw. I made one-third cookie_chef's recipe (because that's how much mayonnaise we had left), and it made four side dish servings.


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