Pressure Cooker Corned Beef

Corned Beef
Normally I would do my yearly Corned Beef on the Big Green Egg, but I have been rebuilding my kitchen and the Instant Pot is one of one of my cool new toysols. It’s a slow cooker/dutch oven/rice maker/pressure cooker hybrid that seemed to be perfect for a cooking a brisket.

Instant Pot
I know a lot of folks think a pressure cooker is just an accident waiting to happen, but the Instant Pot has bunch of safety interlocks that pretty much prevent you from doing anything dangerous with it. You can’t even pressurize it until it checks to make sure the lid is fully locked. Besides, it has Bluetooth connectivity. How cool is that?


3 pound flat cut corned beef brisket with seasoning packet
4 medium red potatoes, quartered
3 large carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 medium parsnips, sliced into 1/2-inch coins

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Rinse the corned beef under cold water to remove excess salt and goo.
Put a rack in the pressure cooking pot and arrange the corned beef on top of that. Sprinkle with seasoning packet and then add just enough water to almost cover the brisket.

Lock the lid in place and set to “Meat/Stew” under high pressure for 50 minutes. Once finished, allow it to depressurize naturally (about 15 minutes) while you chop up the veggies.

Remove the rack and brisket from the pressure cooking to a cutting board. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest until ready to serve.

Add the potatoes, carrots and parsnips to the broth in the pressure cooking pot. Lock the lid in place and set to “Soup” setting for 5 minutes. When beep sounds, turn off pressure cooker and do a quick pressure release.

Leave the lid on while you slice the corned beef into thin slices against the grain. Arrange slices on a platter and surround with veggies.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
While I missed the smokey flavor of the grill, it’s hard to argue with meltingly tender brisket in under an hour. The seasoning was dead on – warm and slightly exotic  and a great match for the salty beefiness of the meat.

Next year I’m thinking of trying smoking and pressure cooking, a la Montreal Smoked Meat. Can’t wait.

St. Paddy’s Pastrami?!?

For a lot of folks, St. Paddy’s Day is an excuse for the wearin-o-the-green and the puking-on-the-shoes. For me, it’s a great chance to pick up some cheap brisket and make up a big batch of pastrami.

I know it’s not traditional, but both corned beef and pastrami are corned (cured) brisket, right? While corned beef is cured and then roasted, braised, boiled, and/or (sometimes) steamed, pastrami is cured and then re-seasoned before being smoked. I like plain corned beef too, but I think that the smoke adds a ton of flavor to the meat.

1 (7-pound) beef brisket
7 tablespoons Morton Sugar Cure (1 tablespoon per pound of meat)
3 tablespoons raw or brown sugar
3 tablespoons corning or pickling spices

Combine the Morton’s, brown sugar, and spices. Put the brisket in a large freezer bag and coat with the cure. Rub the cure into the meat, covering all sides. Squeeze the air out of the bag, seal, and stash in the fridge for 7 days. Liquid will begin to collect in the bag almost immediately. This is your curing solution. Do not drain it off. Flip the bag over once a day to distribute the cure evenly.

After a week, remove the brisket from the cure and rinse under cold water and then soak for an hour to remove some of the salt. Dry off the meat and season with a Montreal-style steak seasoning.

Set up your grill for an indirect cook that will burn for at least 5 hours at 300°F. Use a drip pan under the brisket to catch the fat. Add wood for smoke (I like grape vine). Cook brisket fat side up at 300°F for about 3 hours, or until the internal temperature of the meat hits 160°F internal.

Pastrami

Remove the brisket from the smoker and wrap tightly with several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Return meat the the grill fat side up and cook for about another 2 hours, or until the meat hits 190°F internal.

Remove foiled brisket from the grill and let rest for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil (steam burns can ruin your day), reserving any juices that have accumulated. Slice the pastrami thinly against the grain to serve.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
We have a winner! I served it hot-off-the-grill with home-made sauerkraut and stone-ground mustard. Very tasty. The rest will go into pastrami reubens with melted Munster cheese and Russian dressing. Anything left over after that will become dip.

Sassafras Smoked Salmon Salad with Shallot & Poppy Seed Dressing

Salmon Salad

Sassafras Smoked Salmon Salad – try saying that five times fast.

I was down in central Iowa and made a stop at Hawgeyes BBQ to pick up some supplies. They had sassafras smoking wood, which I’d never seen before. One sniff of that sweet, anise/root beer aroma and I knew I had to smoke some salmon with it.


The Salmon

2 salmon fillet, preferably wild-caught
2 tablespoons raw or brown sugar per pound of fish
2 tablespoons kosher salt per pound of fish
2 tablespoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning

Combine the salt, sugar, and Bay seasoning in a small bowl and mix well. This is the cure.

Lay the fillets flat in a zip-top bag. Cover both sides of the fillet with the cure mixture. Seal the bag and place in fridge for at least 12 hours, but no more than 24 hours. Turn the fillets over every 3-4 hours.

Remove the fish from cure, rinse well in cold water and pat dry. Place the fish skin-side down on a rack. Move to the fridge to dry until surface is dry but slightly sticky to the touch – 1 to 3 hours.

Set up your grill for a 3 hour indirect cook at 225°F. Add your smoking wood (sassafras, of course) and smoke until the fillet hits 160°F internal and starts to flake – about 2 hours.

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Smoked salmon freezes nicely, so I smoked 2 fillets and Food-Savered off all but about 12-ounces for this salad.

The Dressing
1 large shallot, quartered
1 tablespoon brown or Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon of poppy seeds

Put the shallot and salt in a blender and pulse to mince the shallot. Add the vinegar and let sit for at least 5 minutes to sweeten the shallot. Add the mustard, honey, and vinegar. Blend to combine. With the blender running, pour in 2 or 3 drops of oil, then continue pouring the oil in a thin stream until all of the oil is emulsified into the vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the poppy seeds, bottle, and stash in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

I served this as a make-your-own salad with mixed greens and an assortment of toppings.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
In the summer, I make a batch of this dressing up at least once a week. It’s the crack of the salad dressing world – rich, sweet, and tangy, and it goes together quickly, tastes good on a wide variety of salads, and doesn’t separate in the fridge. What’s not to love?

The salmon came out sweet and salty with a subtle root beer taste that worked really well with the Chesapeake Bay seasoning. Can’t wait to make up a batch of dip with the rest of the fillets.

The Nutrition:
It’s salmon and veggies – go easy on the dressing and you’ll be fine.

One year ago – Luxury Stainless Cooking Grid
Two years ago – The Perfect Margarita

Double-Smoked Ham

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When we ordered our last pig, we got something I hadn’t seen before – ham roasts. Not a full ham, but more like a really thick cured and smoked ham steak. Normally I’d pan fry one of these for ham and eggs, or chop if up for ham and bean soup. Instead I decided to treat it like a regular ham and  gave it the double-smoke and glaze treatment.

1 ham roast (2-3 pound thick ham steak)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Combine the honey, vinegars, Worcestershire sauce, and spices in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let simmer until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon – about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook over medium heat (350°F). On the Big Green Egg this means using an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat, and a trivet to set the pan on. I added a good-sized chunk of pecan wood for smoke.

On fully cooked hams, all you need to do is warm the ham to 140°F internal. At 15 minutes per pound, this 3 pound roast should take less than an hour. Place the roast in a small roasting pan (I used a 9×13 cake pan). Close the lid and cook the roast for 20 minutes.

Flip the roast over and baste the ham with the glaze. Close the lid and cook for another 20 minutes. Glaze again, and continue cooking until the ham reaches 140°F internal. Glaze one last time and remove to a cutting board.

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Let the ham rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Skim the fat off the pan juices serve it as an au jus.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
Cooking ham is easy, and double smoking and glazing the roast like this is a great way to really bump the flavor up without adding much more effort to it.

This cut got a little dry, but that was the only problem. Next time I would probably glaze it right before putting it on the grill and then eery 15 minutes or so until just done.

The Nutrition:
Ham is 130 calories and 4 Weight Watchers points per 3 ounce serving.

One year ago – Longaniza Sausage
Two years ago – Tamale Pie

Cottage Bacon

This is my take on old-timey country bacon that’s made from the meatier pork shoulder roast (aka pork butt). It’s like a cross between country ham and traditional bacon – smoky, salty, and just a little sweet. I like to make up a big batch of this and freeze it off in breakfast-sized portions.

2 pork butts (pork shoulder roast), boned and trimmed
1 tablespoon Morton’s Sugar Cure per pound of meat
1 teaspoon white sugar per pound of meat
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons ground black pepper

The meat needs to cure before it gets smoked. This takes at least a week and preferably 10 days. These particular butts were both just under 8 pounds, so I cured them separately because I didn’t have a container big enough for both of them.

Place each butt in a large zip-top bag. Combine the black pepper with 1 tablespoon Morton’s Sugar Cure and 1 teaspoon white sugar per pound of meat (so each butt got 1 tablespoon pepper, 1/2 cup Morton’s cure, and 8 teaspoons sugar). Rub the cure all over the butt, making sure to cover all sides. Pour 1/4 cup of maple syrup over each butt, and turn to coat.

Seal the bags and store the butts in the fridge. Liquid will begin to collect to collect in the bags, indicating  that the cure is working. Cure for 7-10 days, flipping the meat over once a day.

After the butts are cured, remove them from the bag and soak in cold water for 3 hours to remove some of the salt. Let them drip dry on a rack while you fire up the grill.

Set your grill up for an indirect cook at 300°F. On the Big Green Egg this meant filling the firebox with lump charcoal and using a plate setter and drip pan to diffuse the heat. When the cooker is up to temp, add some chucks of wood for smoke. Apple or hickory work great here.

Smoke the butts until the internal temperature hits 140°F. That took about 5 hours for these butts. At this point the meat is cured, but not fully cooked. Stash the meat in the fridge to cool, and then slice to your desired thickness.

I ran the butts through my Chef’s Choice 610 Electric Food Slicer at about a 1/4 inch thick setting.  This is thin enough that the meat will fry up quickly but not so thin that it starts to fall apart.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
This batch of cottage bacon had some great flavor. I like the addition of maple syrup and how the sweetness plays off the saltiness and bits of pepper. Pork shoulder has a good amount of fat in it, but not nearly as much as the belly meat that bacon is usually made with, so it fried up nicely on the chewy side of crispy versus chewy.

These butts had had the bone removed when I bought them. That makes slicing them a lot easier, but the meat wasn’t as compact as I would have liked and some of the little bits that stuck out got overcooked during smoking. I would tie up the butts (oh, that sounds wrong) with butcher’s twine next time.

Corned Beef Hash

I’m a sucker for real corned beef hash. Not the crap in the cans, but the stuff you get at some roadside diner where the waitress serves your cuppa joe in those stocky white mugs, the short-order cook has a tattoo that says “Mom”, and you can order breakfast all day long.

2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
6 ounces diced corned beef (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 eggs
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon kosher salt

You’ll need a medium non-stick skillet with a lid. Heat the oil in the pan over medium heat. Fill the pan with alternating layers of potatoes, corned beef, onion, and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper.  Press mixture to flatten with spatula. Cook uncovered until bottom begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Flip and flatten again. Continue to cook, flipping every 5 minutes, until hash is mostly browned and the onion and bell pepper are tender (about 10 – 15 minutes).

With the back of a spoon, make 4 shallow wells in the hash for the eggs. Crack the eggs into the wells, pour the water into the middle of the hash, and cover with the lid.

Let cook until the egg whites are set, but the yolks are still runny (my favorite), about 5 minutes.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Eating these I could almost hear the ring of the “order’s up” bell – crispy hash browns with tender bits of corned beef and all that lovely yolk oozing over top – perfect!

Flashback Friday

Pulled Pork Shortcut (April 16, 2010) – a year ago I was trying to figure out exactly how I was going to get 8 pork butts cooked for an upcoming graduation party. This first attempt wasn’t bad, but I eventually went with a hotter & faster cooking method that let me get all the cooking done in one weekend.

Gluten-Free Egg Rolls (April 12, 2009) – two years ago my dear wife helped me make up these treats. They were tasty, but a bit putzy and didn’t freeze well. I’d like to try them again, but fry them this time and then freeze off the extras.

Bacon – Buckboard and Canadian-style (April 15, 2008) – three years ago I took my first shot at curing my own bacon. It was such a hit that nowadays I regularly make 15 pound batches and freeze it off for later.

Smoked Salmon Dip

I am pretty much forbidden from visiting my dear wife’s family without a sizable tub of this dip in tow. Call it a hostess gift. Call it a bribe. Call it a get-out-of-jail-free card. It always gets us in (and generally safely back out of ) the door.

As smoked salmon can be awfully pricey, the only way I can afford to keep the outin-laws happy is to buy fresh salmon when it goes on sale and smoke cure it myself.

The Salmon

1 salmon fillet (1-1/2 to 2 pounds), preferably wild-caught
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning (I use Penzey’s, which is a blend of paprika, salt, mustard, celery, ancho, black pepper, red pepper, dill, caraway, allspice, horseradish, cardamom, thyme, ginger, bay, mace, cinnamon, savory and cloves)

Combine all of  the dry ingredients in bowl, mixing well. This is the dry cure.

Put the fillet flat in a large zip-top bag. Cover one side of the fillet with half of the cure, working it in with your hands to cover. Flip the fish and repeat on the other side. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible, seal, and lay flat in fridge for at least 12 hours, but no more than 24. Turn the fillet over every 3-4 hours.

Remove the fish from cure and rinse it well in cold water. Let soak in fresh water for 30 minutes.  Remove from water and pat dry. Place the fish skin-side down on a rack (I use a small baker’s cooling rack). Move the fillet to the fridge until surface is dry but slightly sticky to the touch – 1 to 3 hours.

This semi-gloss finish is called the pellicle, and it helps the fish hold both moisture and smoke.

Set up your grill for a 3 hour indirect cook at 225°F. Add your smoking wood (I used guava) and smoke until the fillet starts to flake – about 2 hours. Remove from the grill and let cool to room temp. Package and store in the fridge overnight so the flesh gets a little firmer and the flavors get to know each other.

I’ll often smoke several fillets up in advance, vacuum seal them, and freeze them for later. I’ve not noticed much loss in quality and it’s a ton cheaper than buying store-bought smoked salmon.

The Dip

1 smoked salmon fillet (1-1/2 to 2 pounds), skinned and de-boned
24 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces sour cream
4 ounces mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh ground horseradish
1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning
1 (3.5-ounce) jar capers, undrained
Fresh ground back pepper to taste

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine everything but the black pepper. Blend until smooth and almost paté-like (you can add more mayo or sour cream if the mixture is too dry). Season with black pepper. Store in a sealed container in the fridge. Top with more capers and/or a few pomegranate seeds scattered on top before serving. It goes great with almost any dipper – crackers, pita chips, corn chips, baguette slices, even sliced veggies.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
This dip is always a monster hit – smoky and rich with just enough tang from the capers to keep everything in balance. This recipe will make a good 2 quarts and we can finish it off during the course of a long weekend just hanging with my brother-in-laws and their families. Sometimes I’ll just make the smoked salmon and serve it as an appetizer with a fancy cheese log.

Reuben Dip

I have been in love with this recipe ever since I spotted it over at Noble Pig. I would really like a decent Reuben sandwich, but with the whole Celiacs thing I’ve yet to find a gluten-free bread that really holds up to grilling. That’s the joy of this dip – it’s everything I love about a good Reuben, just in a dip form.

1/2 pound corned beef, diced
1 (8-ounce)package cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 1/4 cup sauerkraut, drained well.
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon caraway seed
1 Against the Grain Gluten-Free baguette, sliced into rounds and toasted

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Combine the corned beef, cream cheese, 1 cup of the sauerkraut, sour cream, ketchup, and mustard in a medium bowl.  Spoon 1/2 the mixture into a 1-quart baking dish. Top with half of the Swiss cheese. Spoon in the rest of the mixture, and top with the rest of the Swiss cheese, the remaining 1/4 cup of sauerkraut, and the caraway seeds.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until brown and bubbly.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Boy, am I glad the nephews didn’t care for my corned beef ;). The leftovers made this a wonderfully rich and ever so naughty dip. Plan on sharing this one as the two of us couldn’t eat more than a couple of rounds worth before being stuffed. The next time I make this it’ll be for a holiday party where I can share the love.

Corned Beef

Since I come from the line of barbarous folk that gave Hadrian good cause to build his wall, it’s a matter of pride that I cure my own brisket for corned beef. But seeing as it’s a little late now to get that done before St. Paddy’s Day this Thursday, here’s a recipe that you can use with a store-bought corned brisket to create that iconic Irish-American dish with a smoky twist.

Buy a 3 to 4 pound pre-seasoned corned beef brisket. Throw away the nasty package of seasoning that came with it, remove the brisket from the brine, and rinse with fresh cold water for at least 30 minutes.

Move the brisket to plastic container with a lid, or a large zip-top freezer bag, and cover with water. Store in the fridge at least overnight, and up to 48 hours, changing the water a couple of times.

Smoking

Set up your grill for an indirect cook that will burn for at least 5 hours at between 225 to 250°F. Add wood for smoke (I like grape vine for this dish).

While the grill is getting up to temp, remove the brisket from the water and pat dry. Season with a few grinds of black pepper. Cook at 225°F for about 3 hours, or until the internal temperature of the meat hits 160°F. Remove the brisket from the grill and let it rest on a cutting board.

Braising

1 medium cabbage, shredded
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 bay leaves
Enough water to come up about halfway on the cabbage

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

In a large Dutch oven, add the cabbage, garlic, spices, and water. Bring cabbage to a boil over high heat. Cook uncovered until cabbage has started to wilt (about 5 minutes). Remove pan from heat and lay the brisket on top of the cabbage. Add enough water so that it comes half way up the brisket. Cover the dutch oven and move to the oven. Braise until the cabbage is tender and the meat is very tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove the corned beef and slice thinly across the grain. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cabbage to a large platter. Lay the sliced meat over cabbage and ladle over with a little of the remaining liquid. Serve with boiled potatoes.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
While my nephew didn’t care for it (his loss), I thought it was a tasty dish – tender flavorful meat on a bed of savory cabbage with a salty/smoky broth. Yum! The only thing better than corned beef and cabbage is the corned beef hash and Reuben sandwiches that I’ll be making later this week with the leftovers.