There is something about St. Patrick’s Day that entices even the non-Irish to search out a meal from the “old sod.” Even though my parents were immigrants from Germany, I still faithfully serve corned beef every March 17.
Marcia, whose father’s grandmother was Irish, feels compelled to celebrate it although she has found that St. Patrick’s Day stirs up more fanfare in this country than in Ireland. Yet with a Japanese husband, she finds the holiday a good way to introduce visitors from abroad to a bit of Irish-American culture.
When we invite guests, we like to greet them with the scent of freshly baked soda bread that is served adorned with medallions of orange butter. After that, we bring out a corned beef that gleams with a honey-mustard glaze. It is the sugar in the glaze that helps to brown it up beautifully, and because it is cooked mostly on medium power, the meat will stay tender.
Corned beef is also a perfect dish for entertaining because it can be cooked in advance and served warm or at room temperature. We find that this meat cooks most evenly when it is covered tightly with a glass lid (that comes with a four-quart casserole) rather than plastic wrap. Serve it with fluffy mashed potatoes and shards of cooked cabbage.
CORNED BEEF WITH
1 (5- to 6-pound) corned beef brisket, rinsed well
2 cups water
3/4 cup whole-grain mustard
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine brisket and water in 4-quart microwave-proof casserole with lid. Cover and microwave on HIGH (100% power) 12 to 15 minutes or until liquid reaches rolling boil. Turn meat over.
Cover again. Microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) 25 to 30 minutes. Turn meat over and cover again. Microwave on MEDIUM 25 to 30 minutes more or until fork-tender. Let brisket stand, covered, 10 minutes.
Combine mustard, honey, brown sugar, horseradish and cayenne in 4-cup glass measure. Microwave on HIGH 2 minutes. Stir until well blended. Transfer brisket to microwave-proof serving platter, discarding cooking juices. Spread brisket with 1 cup glaze. Cook, uncovered, on MEDIUM 10 minutes, basting twice with juices. Let stand 15 minutes.
Slice corned beef very thinly across grain. Serve warm or at room temperature. Spoon extra 1 cup glaze into serving cup and pass with corned beef. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Note: If corned beef is cooked in advance, prepare without glazing and refrigerate in cooking liquid. When ready to serve, prepare glaze and then reheat beef in liquid, covered, on HIGH (100% power) 8 to 10 minutes or until boiling. Proceed with remaining directions.
IRISH SODA BREAD
3 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup raisins or currants
Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cardamom in bowl of food processor. Pulse on and off few times to blend ingredients. With motor running, slowly pour buttermilk into mixture and process until soft dough is formed. Remove dough to lightly floured surface and work in raisins, kneading dough 6 or 7 times.
Form dough into 8-inch round and place into lightly greased 8- or 9-inch pan. Cut large X, about 1/2-inch deep, on top of loaf. Bake at 400 degrees 35 to 40 minutes or until top is firm and lightly browned. Let stand on wire rack 3 to 4 minutes before removing from pan. Cool loaf at least 5 minutes before serving. Makes 1 loaf.
Note: To make buttermilk substitute, add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or distilled white vinegar to 1 cup whole or nonfat milk. Stir and let stand 10 minutes to thicken.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
Place butter in small microwave-proof bowl. Heat on DEFROST 30 seconds or until soft. Stir in orange juice. To mold butter, spoon onto wax paper, forming line down middle. Sprinkle with orange zest. Roll paper around butter to form 2-inch-diameter log. Chill at least 1 hour. Slice and serve. Makes 1/2 cup or 8 slices.