Sebastian Nava is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and is currently the assistant manager and head of research and development for Five Dot Ranch Premium Natural Beef in Napa Valley, California. Sebastian started his culinary career in a lowly soup kitchen in central California and has worked all the way up to working in the Michelin-rated Ubuntu Restaurant. He has a wide background in the culinary arts from working in many positions ranging from a chocolatier to a butcher and even in food science research. Most recently, he just started a new blog called Culinary Arts & Sciences and I couldn't be more thrilled to start following him. I'm so honored to have him guest posting--he is a wealth of knowledge and I just know he's going to have some really fun and interesting endeavors in the kitchen that you won't want to miss!
So about this corned beef.....
Recipe by Sebastian Nava
Curing meat, meaning the preservation of meat through the use of salt, is one of the many crafts of the kitchen that is quickly becoming extinct in the modern home. It takes a little time, some planning and forethought, but once you give it a shot, you will undoubtedly find it deeply rewarding.
Corned beef is a great introduction to curing because it’s simple, requires only a handful of ingredients, and most importantly, it can be made completely in one pot from start to finish. Corned beef is a great example of how curing meat can be rewarding because it’s such a transformational process; you begin with a tough and chewy cut of meat and by curing it, transform it into a wonderfully spiced, aromatic, and tender dish perfect for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.
I’m often asked where Corned Beef gets its name. The name actually comes from the type of salt used in the curing process. The English used to refer to any small pebble-sized object as a “corn”. In this case, a corn of salt. Because the meat was originally cured in very coarse salt, they called it Corned Beef! How cool is that? Today we cure meats with a special salt called Sodium Nitrite. The Sodium Nitrite preserves the meat, as well as gives the corned beef its signature cured flavor and vibrant pink color. This salt is sold in the form of pink salt (also known as Insta Cure #1), and is a mix of regular table salt, Sodium Nitrate, and usually beet powder for color. It’s safe when consumed in small amounts, but should never be consumed in large amounts. Hence, it’s dyed pink to prevent accidental use or consumption. It is available online and at most specialty grocers.
I like to serve my Corned Beef with oven roasted cabbage and boiled potatoes that I toss in mustard and fresh chopped parsley while still warm. And don’t forget to serve mustard and horseradish alongside!
1 1/2 quart water (6 cups)
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon pink salt (also known as Insta Cure #1)
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons pickling spice (I prefer to make my own, recipe follows)
3 lb first cut brisket
Pickling Spice: (enough for one recipe)
4 bay leaves
2 teaspoons coriander seed
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon mace
4 pieces star anise
In a large pot combine the water, salt, sugar, pink salt, garlic, and half of the pickling spice. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once the brine comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and allow it to chill in the fridge until cool, or overnight.
Add the brisket to the cooled brine and weight it down with a plate or a gallon size zip-top bag filled with water, so that the meat is fully submerged in the brine. Allow the meat to brine in the fridge for five days, flipping the meat every other day.
Remove the meat from the brine and discard the liquid.
Return the meat to the pot along with the remaining pickling spice, and add enough cold water to completely cover the corned beef. Bring to a boil over high heat and then immediately turn down to a simmer and cover with a lid. Add more hot water to the pot as needed throughout the cooking process to keep the corned beef covered as it cooks. Allow to cook until easily pierced with a knife, about 3 or so hours. Remove the meat from the water and allow it to rest for five minutes before slicing against the grain to serve.
The classic meal of corned beef with sautéed cabbage and boiled potatoes is surprisingly delicious served alongside your favorite mustard and horseradish. It also makes an amazing reuben sandwich with sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and swiss cheese on toasted rye bread. It’s always surprising to me just how delicious these old classics can be when time and care is taken into considering the fine details, such as making your own corned beef from scratch. You can bet I’ll be doing this one again next year for St. Patty’s Day!