There are so many packages of corned beef stacked in supermarket meat cases this week, you’d think the whole world was Irish. It’s a fatty cut and loaded with flavor - which is why everyone loves it. In recent years, bright red corned beef, made with enough preservatives to keep the red intact during the long simmer, has fallen out of favor. This is the meat of everyone’s childhood - stringy, so rosy it looks stained by beets, and perfectly delicious.
Corned beef without preservatives is known as “gray.’’ Once you get over the idea that the centerpiece isn’t flame-colored, you can settle into a plate of nicely seasoned meat (the flat cut of brisket is less fatty than the point cut) surrounded by carrots, cabbage, rutabagas, and golden potatoes. Your feast only requires mustard, preferably one with a little heat.
Corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Russian dressing go into Reuben sandwiches, one of the world’s great culinary inventions. To make them, slices of rye are stacked with rich, salty, cheesy ingredients that come together in a hot pan to make something simple and memorable.