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Recipe | The confident cook

Keep St. Patrick’s Day going with a modernized corned beef and cabbage

Sally Pasley Vargas for The Boston Globe

Corned beef and cabbage, the Irish-American dish, is a tradition on St. Patrick’s Day. In these parts, it’s also known as New England Boiled Dinner, and making it can be about as complicated as throwing a hunk of meat into a pot with cabbage and other vegetables. But with a little more effort and a few subtle tweaks, you can turn this dish into something to write home to your Irish grandmother about.

For this modernized take, the trick is to find a good cut of corned beef — a flat-cut beef brisket that has been brined without nitrates. Slowly simmer the beef in the oven, remove it, strain the stock, and let both rest in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, simmer the vegetables in the broth, timing it so that each kind is perfectly cooked. Make a sauce of horseradish, sour cream, lemon juice, and parsley to serve with the meat. With such a meal, I know my Nana would be dancing a jig in heaven.


Sally Pasley Vargas

Corned beef and cabbage

Serves 6


1flat-cut, nitrate-free corned beef brisket (5 to 6 pounds)
4whole cloves
4whole peppercorns
2bay leaves
1large onion, peeled and quartered
12small boiling potatoes (about 1 pound)
2medium rutabagas (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into wedges
1head of cabbage (about 1¾ pounds), tough outer leaves removed, cut into 6 wedges
6small parsnips (about 12 ounces), peeled and left whole
12slender carrots (about 1 pound), peeled and left whole
2tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 325 degrees. Have on hand a large pot with a tight fitting lid.

2. In the pot, place the beef, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, and onion. Add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Over medium heat, bring the water to a boil. Cover the pot and place in the oven for 3½ hours. Remove the meat from the broth and transfer to a shallow baking dish.

3. Turn the oven temperature up to 400 degrees. Place the corned beef in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the top browns and crisps. Remove and let cool. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

4. Strain the stock into a large container. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

5. The next day, set the oven at 350 degrees. Remove the stock from the refrigerator and spoon off and discard the solidified fat. Slice the beef across the grain into slices ¼ inch thick. Place in a baking dish, add a few ladles of the stock, and cover loosely with foil. Warm in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.


6. Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring the remaining stock to a boil. Add the potatoes and rutabagas and adjust the heat to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, parsnips, and carrots and continue to simmer for 15 to 20 more minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

7. Transfer the vegetables to a deep platter. Arrange the meat over the vegetables and spoon a few ladles of stock over it. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.


1cup sour cream
3tablespoons milk
1tablespoon lemon juice, or more to taste
1tablespoon prepared horseradish in brine, or more to taste
½teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste
½cup chopped fresh parsley

1. In a bowl, stir the sour cream and milk together until blended. Stir in the lemon juice, horseradish, and mustard.

2. Add salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley. Taste and add more lemon juice or horseradish, if you like. Drizzle the parsley sauce over the meat and serve extra sauce on the side.Sally Pasley Vargas

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