You don’t need to be Irish to appreciate this traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal. A generous application of a mustard and brown sugar glaze makes the surface of this corned beef almost candied. When purchasing the cured brisket, remember that cooking a corned beef is a little like cooking fresh spinach. Although initially you put a substantial amount into the pot, after cooking due to shrinkage, you’ll swear that someone absconded with your food! So, it’s always best to prepare more than you think necessary since leftovers are great for sandwiches and are easily made into hash. And when possible, purchase lean first- cut corned beef since less fat at the beginning means more meat after the initial simmering. For best flavor, the corned beef should be cured in a salt and water solution only; avoid beef that’s pickled in heavy brine. The classic accompaniment of tender boiled potatoes simply dressed in melted butter, parsley or chives and a light sprinkling of salt is made even more savory when cooked in the water used to simmer the corned beef. Serve with braised cabbage and either my creamy (and so easy) mustard sauce or with assorted mustards.
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Bring an 8-quart pot of water to a simmer. (If using a blanching pot, remove strainer for now.) If the brisket has a heavy layer of fat on top, trim it so only a thin layer remains. Carefully lower meat into simmering water, cover and return to a full simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer the meat for 3 hours. Turn off heat, but keep the pot covered and let the meat sit in the water for an additional 30 minutes.
Ladle out 1 to 2 cups of the poaching liquid from the pot (or substitute orange or pineapple juice) and pour onto the bottom of a shallow baking sheet that’s lined with parchment paper. Carefully remove beef from water and place (fat side up) on the baking sheet. (Reserve the remaining poaching liquid to cook both the potatoes and cabbage wedges, if using.) In a small bowl, combine brown sugar with mustard and preserves. Brush mixture liberally over the exposed areas of the meat.
Preheat oven to 375o F. Roast corned beef at 350o until hot and the glaze has caramelized and is becoming crisp, about 30 minutes.
While corned beef roasts, divide the water used to poach the beef in two pots-and bring poaching liquid back to a boil. Add potatoes to boiling water and cook (covered) until tender, but not mushy, 15 to 20 minutes at a strong boil. If still a bit firm in the center, reduce heat to low and cook gently until cooked through. Add the cabbage wedges to the other pot and cook until tender, about 15 minutes, at a brisk simmer.
Transfer glazed meat to a carving board and let settle (loosely covered with aluminum foil) for 10 minutes. Slice each brisket into 1/3- inch slices, going against the grain with a sharp knife. Cover meat with foil while you finish potatoes.
Melt butter in a 12-inch, deep-sided skillet-reserve 3 tablespoons for the cabbage. Just before serving, drain potatoes, add to skillet and shake the handle gently to swirl each potato in melted butter. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, freshly ground black pepper and a light application of coarse salt. Swirl once more. Carefully spoon each potato into a warmed serving bowl. Use a slotted utensil to remove cabbage to warmed serving bowl and drizzle with the reserved butter. Season, as needed. Serve potatoes and cabbage while hot with the sliced corned beef. Pass mustard sauce (or your favorite mustard) at the table.