Jiggs: Traditional Corned Beef And Cabbage (a.k.a. New England Boiled Dinner)
"If it was raining soup, the Irish would go out with forks." Brendan Behan
Corned Beef And Cabbage is the tradition on St. Patrick's Day, an event that, to me, is more about our common immigrant stories that about being Irish. Irish Americans share their remarkable tale with Jews, Italians, Germans, Cubans, and Mexicans. So many of us can trace our heritage to fearful, ragged, tired, and poor arriving on our shores with not much more than the clothes on their back, life in hovels, hard labor, discrimination, acclimation, acculturation, and success. That's why we are all Irish in some way.
Surprisingly, Corned Beef And Cabbage is not a tradition in Ireland. It is an Irish-American-Jewish tradition. Corned pork and cabbage is more common in the Emerald Isles where beef was scarce and expensive. But Irish immigrants in the US found beef more plentiful in their lower Manhattan ghettos where the butchers were mostly kosher Jews and pork was verboten.
In diners slang between waitress and cook, the dish is called jiggs. In some quarters the dish and variations is called New England Boiled Dinner. The concept is that corned meat, which is meat that has been pickled in a strong brine or salty rub with spices, needs to be desalinated before eating. But all that salt can be used to enhance potatoes, carrots, cabbage, turnips, etc.
Traditional on St. Patrick's Day, it is a shame the dish not served more often, and my guess is that is because people just take the meat out of the wrapper and throw it in a pot with water and veggies and potatoes and they feel they have met their obligation. But everything is soooooo salty, the meat is tough and fatty, and the veggies and potatoes are mushy.
Here's how to do the dish properly. If you have leftovers, make Rockin' Reuben Sandwiches, Corned Beef Hash, or throw it on your smoker and make my Close To Katz's Pastrami. But if you do it right, there won't be leftovers.
Makes. 6 servings (the meat shrinks a lot)
Preparation time. 10 minutes
Cooking time. 3 to 4 hours
3 pounds of corned beef, preferably home made
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1" segments
2 pounds of potatoes, cleaned and cut into 2" chunks
1 small head of cabbage, outer leaves removed, cut in quarters
A good idea. While the meat is cooking, mix up some of my Secretariat Horseradish Sauce and refrigerate for at least two hours to let the flavors marry. Serve it on the side as a dipping sauce.
Optional. You can add an onion and in Eastern Europe, caraway seeds are popular.
1) Follow the steps in the sidebar for desalinating and cooking corned beef. The extra step of changing the water after 30 minutes will mean that the broth will not be too salty to be served like with the meat and veggies like a stew.
2) Add the carrots and potatoes. After 30 minutes add the cabbage. After 15 to 25 minutes the cabbage will be done and so should everything else.
3) Remove the meat and place it on a carving board. If you got the point section, there are often two horizontal muscles with a thick layer of fat between them. Separate them by sliding a knife through the fat. Carve and/or scrape off the fat layer. Carve the meat by cutting across the grain about the thickness of a pencil. Any thinner and it will fall apart, any thicker and it will be chewy. Carve with the grain and you will have difficulty chewing.
4) Lift out the cabbage, potatoes, and carrots and divide them into serving bowls. Place the meat in the bowl. Spoon some of the cooking liquid over them and serve.
This page was revised 3/17/2013
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