Although my last name is Gennarelli, fifty percent of the blood running through my veins is Irish. My mother’s maiden name is Donohue, and my maternal grandparents both immigrated from Ireland. In fact, they met on the boat coming over.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that St. Patrick’s Day was a pretty big deal in our house when I was a kid. Every year I heard my mother’s end of her phone call to Grandpa… “No Pop, the schools are NOT closed on St. Patrick’s Day. No Pop, I can’t keep them home.” And she always ended the call with “Yes Pop, we’re having corned beef and cabbage for dinner.” And every year, we did just that. (By the way, us kids always thought Grandpa was right and that it was just plain wrong to go to school on such an important holiday. We never won that argument though. Every year we trudged off to school clad in green).
As an adult, I keep up the family dinner tradition, and once again, on March 17th, we’ll be having a corned beef dinner. And we’ll be topping if off with Bailey’s Irish Cream cheesecake. Here are the recipes I use.
4 slices of dense, hearty bread (traditional Reubens are made with rye bread)
Thousand Island salad dressing
4 thick slices of Swiss cheese
Left-over corned beef
½ cup sauerkraut (or to taste), drained
Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add a little butter to coat the pan. Note, you can use a George Foreman grill or panini press instead of a skillet.
Slather Thousand Island dressing on one side of each of the four slices of bread.
On two slices of the bread, layer one slice of Swiss cheese, the corned beef, the sauerkraut, and another slice of Swiss cheese. Top with remaining bread slices, dressing side down.
Butter the top of each sandwich.
Place sandwiches butter side down in the skillet, and butter the top of each sandwich.
Grill until both sides are golden brown and cheese is melting. Note, if using a skillet, flip the sandwiches carefully so they don’t fall apart.
Homemade Irish Cream
I came across this recipe a few months ago, and instead of buying Bailey’s Irish cream for the holidays this year, I tried this. Oh my word… I will never buy Bailey’s Irish cream again! This is wonderful, just takes minutes, and is better than any commercial Irish cream I’ve had. This recipe is from SmittenKitchen.com.
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup of heavy or whipping cream
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of Irish whiskey (I use Jameson's)
In the bottom of a pitcher, whisk cocoa powder and a spoonful of cream into a paste. Slowly, whisking the whole time, add more cream a spoonful at a time until the paste is smooth and loose enough that you can whisk the rest of the cream in larger splashes.
Once all of the cream is in, whisk in condensed milk, whiskey and vanilla. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, possibly longer.
CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE
First, a note about corned beef. For many years, I made corned beef the way it’s typically done here in the U.S.: I bought a ‘corned beef’ — that is, brisket that’s already been brined and packaged with a spice packet. And, I cooked it in a slow cooker. It was always very good.
In recent years, I’ve upped my game, with very little extra effort. Now when I make corned beef, I buy brisket that has not yet been brined, and brine it myself. And I cook it in a cast iron dutch oven rather than in a slow cooker. It’s made a big difference — it’s ‘upped’ the quality of both the meal and the experience.
Brining the meat yourself is simple and just takes minutes of ‘active’ time. It does, however, require five to seven days of lead time. The primary advantage is that - in my experience - the quality of a piece of brisket bought from the butcher is typically better than that of the brisket used in the corned beef packages that are available.
Here are the instructions for brining the brisket:
2 cups of coarse salt
½ cup of sugar
5 cloves of smashed garlic
3 tablespoons of pickling spices
1 tablespoon of curing salt
2.5+ pounds beef brisket
In a pot large enough to hold the brisket, combine a gallon of water with all of the ingredients except the brisket.
Set the heat to high and stir constantly until the liquid is hot and the sugar and salts are dissolved. This should only take a few minutes and it won’t require bringing the mixture to a boil.
Refrigerate until the liquid is cool.
Submerge the brisket in the cooled liquid, and weigh it down with a plate or other object so it stays submerged (I typically fill an empty quart-size plastic milk bottle with water, put the cap on, and place it on top of the brisket to weigh it down).
Cover the pot and refrigerate for five to seven days, turning the brisket every day.
Here are the instructions for cooking the corned beef
1 large onion, cut into quarters
2 tablespoons of pickling spice
1 tablespoon of steak seasoning
3+ bottles of stout (or good dark beer)
Chicken stock, as needed
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the onion pieces in the bottom of a heavy, oven-proof pot that is large enough to hold the brisket (I use a cast iron dutch oven).
Remove the brisket from the brine, rinse it, and pat it dry.
Lay the brisket on top of the onion pieces in the pot.
Sprinkle on the pickling spices and steak seasoning.
Pour the stout into the pot and add enough chicken broth so that the liquid level reaches the top of the brisket.
Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and cook for another 2 hours.
Turn the brisket over and cook for another 2 hours.
Sides and Options:
You can add some vegetables to the pot if you’d like. Very often, it’s made with carrot wedges and quartered potatoes. These should be added in step 9 when the brisket is turned over.
You can also add cabbage (cut into wedges) one hour before the end.
I prefer to do cabbage separately on the stovetop. I slice cabbage, put it in a pan with lots of butter and salt and pepper to taste. I cook it covered on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is very soft, usually 20 to 30 minutes.
Last time I made corned beef, instead of throwing potatoes into the pot, I made 'crispy smashed potatoes', which were really good. And very easy to do. Start with small Yukon Gold or red potatoes and boil them until done (20 to 25 minutes). Place each one on a baking sheet brushed with olive oil. Using a hand potato masher or large fork, gently 'smash' each one until it's about ½" thick. Drizzle olive oil on the top of each one and season with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden and crispy.
This recipe is from Delish.com.
Ingredients for the crust:
4 tablespoons of butter, melted (plus more to grease the pan)
26 Oreo cookies
Pinch of Kosher salt
Ingredients for the cheesecake:
4 8-ounce bars of cream cheese, softened
1.5 cups of granulated sugar
.25 cups of cornstarch
4 large eggs
2/3s cup of Baileys Irish cream
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
Ingredients for the ganache:
2/3s cup of heavy cream
2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter an 8 or 9 inch springform pan.
In a food processor, combine the Oreo cookies with the melted butter and the salt. Pat the mixture into the buttered springform pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and the sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and then add the eggs. Add the Baileys and the vanilla. Beat until well-combined.
Pour the batter into the springform pan and place on a baking sheet.
Bake until the center of the cheesecake is only slightly jiggly (about 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in for 1 hour. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
When ready to serve, make the ganache. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the heavy cream. Place the chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl and pour the heavy cream over it. Let sit for 3 minutes and then stir until its creamy and there are no lumps. Refrigerate until slightly thick, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Take the side off the springform pan and spread the ganache on the cheesecake, letting it drip down the sides.
Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
I've also included two bonus recipes to complete the experience -- one for Reuben Sandwiches, so none of that corned beef goes to waste, and another for Irish Cream that will keep you from ever buying another bottle of Bailey's.
I always buy a brisket that will yield plenty of leftovers, because my favorite part about making corned beef is having Rueben sandwiches the next day.
Makes 2 sandwiches
Jane Gennarelli is co-editor of LNF Weekly. She also edits the Lavaca & Friends weekly arts and entertainment newsletter.