Monday, March 20, 2006
Kiss Me, I Cooked Irish: Daily McGluttony's Corned Beef and Cabbage
I remember it clearly, though perhaps not so fondly. It was March 17, nineteen seventy-mbghppphr, and I was being pinched to death at laughed at by my second grade classmates because I didn't wear green for St. Patrick's Day. In order to save me from more physical and mental bruises, my teacher was nice enough to cut a square of green construction paper and pin it to my sweater. "It's St. Patrick's Day, dear, you have to wear green otherwise you'll get pinched!" I wondered why my mother hadn't told me this when she helped me get ready for school that morning, and when approached about it after I got home that afternoon, she was more clueless than I was.
I forgave my mother because even though I was a little tyke, it was obvious to me that this was just another one of those Western traditions that my old school Chinese parents just didn't follow. We had all the Chinese New Year bases covered, that's for sure. I had all of those traditions pounded into my head since birth, but St. Patricks Day? Eh, not so much.
So it came as a big surprise, then, when Mom & Dad busted out with the corned beef and cabbage on the same day that their kid endured a torture that would scar her for the rest of her life. I'd never had it before, so curiously, I asked about the hunk of pink meat and cabbage wedges that sat in the Corning Ware on the table. "It's corned beef and cabbage," they explained, "people eat it for St. Patrick's Day."
So let me get this straight. You let your kid go to school green-less so as to be harassed by mean children, you've never heard of the wearing green thing, but you do know about corned beef and cabbage? Talk about being scarred for life.
I ate the dish of confusion with trepidation, but liked it, the fatty, salty meat blending so well with the leafy texture of the boiled cabbage. Of course, our family ate it with rice, which was perfect after the grains had soaked up some of the juice from the brisket. As years went by, I never, ever forgot to wear green on St. Patrick's Day again, my family continued the annual tradition of cooking their corned beef and cabbage dinner, and I came to figure out that it was not so much St. Patrick's Day that they were celebrating, but the fact that corned beef brisket and cabbage are dirt cheap the week of March 17th. The whole family was fed well for like 2 bucks and that, my friends, is always reason for celebration.
As I grew older and started living on my own, I continued the tradition of cooking corned beef and cabbage every St. Patrick's Day for a group of friends. This year, of course, was no different except for the fact that we cooked our brisket two days after the fact due to our recent busy schedules. I didn't even get a chance to go shopping for my annual dinner until last Thursday the 16th, and pulled my hair out driving around Alhambra trying to find a brisket. Albertsons was sold out, the Alhambra Vons had closed down permanently, and third store, Max Foods--some ghetto grocery store on Valley--finally had what I was looking for. And it wasn't even the cheaper, $0.69/lb point cut brisket...that had sold out and all they had left was the $1.99/lb flat cut brisket. I had a tradition to uphold, so it would have to do. With two heads of cabbage at $0.25/lb, I still got out of the market for under ten bucks, but was a little bummed that I couldn't do it for under 5 or six dollars like I normally do. Geez, the influence parents have on you!
Corned beef and cabbage is probably one of the easiest meals to make. Just put the bloody brisket into a large pot with the enclosed seasoning packet, cover with water, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer for about 2 hours or until tender, adding water if needed. Remove brisket from water and "dry out" in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add cabbage wedges to brisket water and boil until tender.
Bloody brisket anyone?
Although I did make a pot of rice to go with the dinner, I cooked some roasted red potatoes seasoned with olive oil, dijon mustard, garlic, rosemary and thyme for the starch part of the meal. The crispy skinned potatoes provided some nice body to round out this ultimate comfort meal.
You say potato, I say cheap dinner
Isaac and our friends were very satisfied, and me even more so because I was able to feed five people for about ten bucks, keeping the family tradition very much alive.