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.
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.
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.
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.
(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
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.
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.