Corned Beef on Rye with Mustardy Coleslaw & Caramelized Onions

posted in: Meat & Poultry, Recipes | 9

Happy St. Patty’s Day! If popular tradition had won us over, we’d be toasting pints of Guinness in leprechaun hats and forking up mouthfuls of corned beef with cabbage and potatoes right about now. But as much as I hold dear that classic meal, it just didn’t seem like an appropriate day for boiled potatoes and cabbage. At sixty degrees and sunny outside, it’s picnic time. Spring is here, and that’s reason enough to celebrate.

One could argue that it’s never a particularly good day to boil winter cabbage when you can serve it raw. Cabbage is chock full of Vitamin C, potassium, fiber and more; it’s what kept our ancestors alive in cold-weather climates all around the globe. You’d have to drink up the boiling water to capture what’s left of those essential nutrients, which I don’t think many people do today. So to preserve them, and enjoy its sweet taste all the more, you can just serve the dense, crunchy cabbage raw.

a giant yellow Nantes carrot sliced for the slaw

before tossing the coleslaw with its mustardy sauce

This tangy, fresh coleslaw was probably my favorite part of this sandwich, and I helped myself to plenty more on the side. Thinking that it could replace a slick of mustard on the bread, I whisked up spicy brown mustard, whole grain mustard, honey, vinegar and mayonnaise to create a thick, sweet-spicy sauce. It’s amazing how little of this it took to fully coat a massive pile of shredded green cabbage and yellow carrots. A few tosses, and a delicious, mustardy slaw was done.

onion slices begin their slow sautee

A couple of sliced onions cooked on low heat until candy-sweet seemed a good idea for this sandwich, too. Combined with the coleslaw, these flavorful, homemade fixins’ gave the sandwich more substance to bite into.

just-boiled corned beef

Not that hot corned beef really needs much; it’s stand-alone delicious. I simply boiled my brisket, which had been brined by nearby supermarket Fairway in-house. (Next year I might think about giving that step a try in advance.) After two hours of simmering, it was fork-tender, juicy and still salty as a pickle. Pressed between soft whole wheat rye, it was sublime.

So it would seem that I went with a less-Irish but appropriately New York-centric Jewish approach for my St. Patrick’s Day meal. Well, that’s not the first time that’s happened, as evidenced in this local holiday find, below.

Corned Beef on Rye with Mustardy Coleslaw & Caramelized Onions
(makes about 6 sandwiches)

3-4 lbs corned beef (in bag with juices, pre-brined)
12 slices rye bread
2 onions, sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
half a head green cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, finely sliced or shredded
1 tablespoon smooth, spicy mustard
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (I like My Friend’s Mustard)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup mayonnaise
pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Boil corned beef completely submerged in water for 2-3 hours or until tender. Drain and slice across the grain.

Cook the onions in oil on a large fry pan for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and caramel-brown.

In a large bowl, combine the mustards, vinegar, honey and mayonnaise and whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Toss with the shredded cabbage and carrots to make the slaw.

Assemble sandwich: pile corned beef slices, caramelized onions and slaw between two slices of bread, and serve.

Cost Calculator
(for 6 sandwiches)

12 slices rye bread: $3.49
3.5 lb corned beef brisket, pre-brined (at $2.99/lb): $10.50
1/2 head green cabbage (at $2/lb): $1.50
1 carrot: $0.50
2 onions: $0.60
2 tablespoons mustard: $0.40
1/2 cup mayonnaise: $0.80
vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, olive oil: $0.75

Total: $18.54

Health Factor

Five brownie points: Cabbage slaw is a great way to add flavor, texture as well as a hearty serving of veggies to any sandwich. Try going heavier on this fixin’ than even the meat, using the latter for flavor rather than the main substance. It’s sort of the theory of banh mi, served this way. Brisket can be very lean, too, and it’s easy to trim scraggly bits of fat away from each slice. Sandwiches could get a lot worse than this.

Green Factor

Five maple leaves: It’s becoming more and more rare that I eat meat, saving it mostly for special occasions (or silly holiday meals, such as this). But in my scramble to make it happen, I didn’t have time to look around for the most trusted sources for beef. I’m not even sure how many farmers I know of make corned beef, either. Fairway is however a pretty “fair” supermarket, and their meat is antibiotic and hormone-free, if not necessarily from pastured animals or grass-fed. The cabbage, onions and carrot in this dish were leftovers from last weekend’s Greenmarket run, though.

9 Responses

  1. […] Corned Beef on Rye with Mustardy Coleslaw & Caramelized Onions … […]

  2. Hospitable Scots Bachelor

    The corned beef sandwich. One of life’s simple, innocent pleasures!!

  3. Su

    Just for future reference, it is Paddy’s Day, not Patty’s. Patty is a woman’s name and it is insulting to Irish people to use that term.

  4. Cathy Erway

    Su: Whoops! I guess it also sounds like a round disc of ground meat, too, not very flattering. Eek.

  5. Michael Olenick


    I am moving into NYC this summer and just discovered your blog! Life Saver! Not only do you post delicious recipes, your wallet conscious as well! I love to cook and actually just tried this recipe, delicious! I went with the Jewish approach as well and it was fantastic!


  6. Jane

    Just a quick note for future reference, it’s bacon, cabbage and potatoes, I’m Irish and I’ve never heard of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes. 🙂

  7. Natasha

    Hi Cathy,

    I had a quick question about the pickling liquid from the corned beef. I noticed that you discarded the brining/boiling liquid, and didn’t reuse it. I skimmed the fat and froze the broth.
    Do you think it would be a good base for some kind of soup? If so, what veggies would you recommend?

    Reply to Jane: I think that the Traditional Boiled Corned Beef Dinner – with cabbage, carrots and potatoes is a North American celebration of Irish heritage. In fact, I just found an Irish website that says corned beef was used by the Irish aristocracy for Easter Sunday dinner, but the rural folk ate/eat bacon with the usual trappings. www[dot]littleshamrocks[dot]com/history-of-corned-beef-and-cabbage.html

  8. Gesundheit und Apotheken

    Gesundheit und Apotheken…

    […]Corned Beef on Rye with Mustardy Coleslaw & Caramelized Onions » Not Eating Out in New York[…]…

  9. Bahnhof-Apotheke


    […]Corned Beef on Rye with Mustardy Coleslaw & Caramelized Onions » Not Eating Out in New York[…]…

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