Confession: half the time I don’t know what I’m doing or I’ve never tried it before. I’m lucky to have so many successes from pure logic, observations and research.
My idea of corned beef came from a can with a key where you twisted a strip of metal off. It was more precarious than the Spam can. My mom and grandma would make corned beef hash for breakfast with a plain omelette and steamed rice. Neither is it the kind of hash where it’s more potato with beef pressed into a cake, nor discrete pieces of dry fried beef or potato; but softened, almost bolognese, beef with tender medium dice potatoes. Spoonable. I’ll have to make it to show you sometime.
My real encounter with legit corned beef didn’t occur until fairly recently at Katz’s deli. Oh, it’s a sliced, cured meat? And damn, it’s great. Two days before this St. Patrick’s day brunch, I looked up Alton Brown’s corned beef. I felt optimistic because I had all of the spices on hand, but to my dismay, the recipe calls for a 10 day cure. Ain’t nobody got for TIME for that. Could I pull off a shortcut corned beef in a day and a half? The short answer is resounding, "YES!".
- Start with marinating the beef the same way as Alton Brown but making sure to omit the curing salt and reduce the regular salt to only enough to cover the meat with a snowy crust. You won’t be needing the chemical preservative because you’ll be eating this thing relatively soon (as opposed to ten days from now).
- Leave it in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight. Because you forgot to buy celery for the slow-cooking part, empty a can of Cel-Ray soda into a quart container with a chopped onion and sliced carrot. 24 hours before show time, drain the celery soda into a slow cooker, reserve the carrot and onion for a roasted side.
- Put the glorious meat into the cooker on high and cover until you feel sleepy. Before bed, turn the slow cooker to low because you don’t want the meat to fall apart when you try to move it.
- In the morning, turn the slow cooker off and remove the lid.
- If you can lift the meat without breaking it, transfer to a rack over a sheet pan and dry under a fan for two hours. If you can’t move it, let it cool until you can.
- Meanwhile, strain the juices and discard the spices.
- Slice thick slabs and layer them in a pan, as best you can. Reserve the bits that fall off and keep in a corner of the pan.
- Pour the reserved slow cooker liquid over the meat and keep it warm in the oven until you’re ready to eat. Do not dry it out!
Serve with a spatula because these babies are super soft.