Make a traditional St. Patrick's Day dinner in record time with a pressure cooker
Corned beef and cabbage is one of the most delicious and satisfying home-style main dishes I know. (Fotolia / March 12, 2014)
One of my favorite foods to cook and eat for St. Patrick's Day is traditional corned beef and cabbage. It's one of the most delicious and satisfying home-style main dishes I know, a comforting and nourishing combination of lean brine-cured beef brisket, slowly braised in broth (and beer, of course) with a generous assortment of vegetables, including big wedges of cabbage. For a holiday that comes a few days before the official end of winter, it perfectly bridges the two seasons, warming and filling at a time when days can still be a bit nippy, and yet offering up a bounty of fresh produce along with the protein.
Cooking corned beef and cabbage, though, can have its challenges, the biggest being how long it can take to simmer that big piece of meat to absolute tenderness -- generally, a good 3 hours for a 3-pound brisket. I've heard some home cooks complain that sometimes even that much time isn't enough, and I've known other cooks who get impatient and wind up serving chewy meat.
I've discovered, however, a simple solution to ensuring not only perfectly tender meat but also to achieving it in record time: Use a pressure cooker. With one of the easy, safe and reasonably priced electric pressure cookers available today (including my own brand, though my recipe will work with any of them), you can make perfect corned beef in about an hour and a half of cooking time, plus the extra few minutes it takes for the cooker to come to full pressure beforehand and then let pressure release naturally after cooking is done.
Even better, cooking under pressure helps to break down the meat fibers for absolutely fork-tender results, and it concentrates the flavors of meat and vegetables like nothing else I know. Follow my recipe here, and you won't believe how delicious the results will be.
Let me offer one important tip for success, though. It's essentially that you don't quick-release the pressure at the end of cooking, as the sudden change can tighten the meat's muscle fibers. When cooking is done, be sure to unplug your cooker, too, while pressure releases slowly; that way, if your model of cooker includes a warming function, it won't affect the pressure change.
Give my recipe a try, and you'll never want to cook your corned beef -- or other braised meats -- any other way. Have a fun St. Patrick's Day!
PRESSURE COOKER CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE
Serves 6 to 8
3 pounds whole packaged uncooked corned beef brisket, including its seasoning packet
2 bay leaves
1 medium head green or white cabbage, cored and cut into 8 wedges
4 medium organic Yukon gold or other yellow-fleshed potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half lengthwise
4 medium organic carrots, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 medium yellow onions, trimmed, peeled and cut into 4 quarters each
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 ounces lager-style beer or pale ale
2 cups organic beef broth
Mustard and prepared horseradish or horseradish cream sauce, for serving
Unwrap and drain the corned beef. With a sharp knife, carefully trim off excess fat. Rinse the beef with cold running water.
Put the corned beef in the cooking chamber of the pressure cooker. Sprinkle it with its seasoning packet. Add the bay leaves.
Arrange the cabbage wedges on their sides evenly around the corned beef. Evenly place the potato halves, carrot chunks, onion quarters, and garlic cloves among the cabbage wedges.
Pour the beer and the broth over the ingredients.
Secure the lid of the pressure cooker, locking it in place following the manufacturer's instructions. Close the pressure release valve.
Turn on the pressure cooker. Once it has reached full pressure, set a timer, either on the machine or separate from it, to cook under pressure for 90 minutes.
At the end of the cooking time, turn off the machine and also unplug it. Leave the pressure release valve closed, letting pressure release slowly on its own, about 10 minutes.
When pressure has returned to normal, carefully unlock and remove the lid. Transfer the corned beef to a cutting board and, with a sharp knife, cut it across the grain into thick slices, arranging them on a heated platter with the vegetables or in individual heated shallow soup plates. Moisten the meat and vegetables with the cooking liquid and serve immediately, passing mustard and horseradish on the side.
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