Cooking with Simple Ingredients for St Patrick’s Day

What could be better on St Patrick’s Day than a casserole that stars that trio of Irish favorites–corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. These ingredients can be found at supermarkets around the country, so if you want to make this dish tomorrow on March 17 th, last-minute shopping will be easy.

For this recipe cabbage is cut into strips, then sautéed in a skillet until lightly browned and caramelized. The cooked cabbage is combined with small red skin potatoes that are boiled and sliced and with corned beef (purchased at the deli counter) that is sliced and  cut into strips. A delectable white sauce enriched with grated Gruyère, grainy mustard, and crushed caraway seeds binds this trio together. The dish can be prepared several hours ahead, then put in the oven for less than half an hour. A recipe serves six generously but can be halved to feed two to three.

I did a demo of this casserole last week for Mass Appeal, a popular noontime show that airs on our local NBC affiliate here in western Massachusetts. The aromas of this dish heating in the studio kitchen’s oven attracted the attention not only of the staff, but of other guests appearing on the program. “Perfect,” they declared, “for celebrating this holiday.”

Happy St Patrick’s Day to everyone!

PS Here’s the link to my cooking demo of this special dish. There will be a short ad and then the video will begin. Untap the mute button  for audio.

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Corned Beef and Cabbage with Country Mustard Sauce

2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus extra for the baking dish
2 tbsp flour
2 cups half-and-half
4 tbsp Dijon mustard with seeds
2 tsp caraway seeds, toasted and crushed (See cooking tip.)
Kosher salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese (or other good melting cheese such as sharp white cheddar)

Corned Beef and Cabbage

12 oz small (1-1/2 to 2 in in diameter) red skin potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
Kosher salt
One medium (2-1/2 to 3 pd) cabbage
4 tbsp unsalted butter
12 oz best quality corned beef, thinly sliced and cut into strips 1/2 in-wide by 3-to 5-inch long (See market tip)
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill (If unavailable, you can use flat leaf parsley.)

1.Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9-by-13-in or a shallow 3-qt baking dish.

2.For the sauce, melt the butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Gradually pour in the half-and-half and whisk constantly until mixture is smooth and starts to simmer. Stir in the mustard, caraway seeds, 1/4 tsp salt, cayenne pepper, and several grinds of black pepper. Then gradually whisk in the 2 1/2 cups of Gruyère. Remove and set aside; cover the saucepan to keep sauce warm.

3.Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. When hot, add  potatoes and cook until tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain well in a colander and cool. Then, cut into 1/4-in thick slices. Add to a large mixing bowl.

4.While potatoes are cooking, quarter the cabbage and cut out and discard the tough inner cores. Slice the quarters crosswise into 1/2-in wide strips to equal 10 cups. (You may have some cabbage left over; save for another use.)

5.Heat 4 tablespoons butter in a large, heavy frying pan set over medium heat. When hot, add half of the cabbage and cook and stir until it starts to wilt, several minutes, then add the remaining cabbage. Cook, stirring often, until the cabbage has softened and is starting to brown, 10 minutes or more. Remove and add to the bowl along with the corned beef strips.

6.Add the sauce to the mixing bowl, and toss well to combine. Spread the cabbage mixture evenly in the baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. (Casserole can be prepared 5 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.)

7.Bake until the casserole is hot and the cheese has melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with dill.

Serves 6 to 7

Cooking tip:  To toast caraway seeds, place them in a small dry frying pan over medium heat, and toss or stir lightly until browned and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove and cool, then place in a self-sealing plastic bag and crush with a meat pounder or a rolling pin.

Market tip:  Be sure to buy the best corned beef available, preferably from a deli or the deli counter at the supermarket. Don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson for a taste of different corned beef brands–you might be surprised by how much they vary in taste.

Adapted from Sunday Casseroles by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books 2013)

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