Stout-Glazed Corned Beef
Like other slow-cooked meats, corned beef has always seemed a little magical to me. Its texture transforms from tough to fork-tender over the course of several hours -- all corned beef asks of a cook is patience.
You can make corned beef at home, or you can buy a pre-cooked one (look for it in butcher shops in March). This St. Patrick's Day, try serving your corned beef with a stout glaze.
Makes ¾ cup glaze (enough for one corned-beef brisket)
1 (12-ounce) bottle stout
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup honey
1 corned-beef brisket (recipe follows)*
Combine the stout, brown sugar, and honey in a small pot set over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring often to dissolve the sugar, then adjust the heat so that the stout simmers. Cook until the liquid is syrupy and has reduced in volume by half for 30 - 40 minutes. Keep a close eye on the pot at first; it takes some tweaking to get the temperature just high enough that the stout bubbles cheerfully, but not so high that it boils over.
Set the warm, cooked corned beef on a baking sheet and brush the stout glaze on all sides of the meat. Place under the broiler for 5 - 8 minutes, until the glaze bubbles and darkens on the surface of the meat. Let cool for a minute or two, then cut across the grain into ¼-inch-thick slices and serve warm with any remaining glaze.
*Corned beef is beef (usually brisket) that has been cured in pickling brine for ten days or so. You can buy raw corned beef, which has already been salted but still needs to be cooked, or you can buy cooked corned beef, which needs only to be reheated. If you choose raw corned beef, the cooking process is simple: Place the beef in a wide, heavy-bottomed pot and pour in enough water to cover the meat. If you have an extra bottle of beer, pour that in, too. Peel a yellow onion, cut it in half, and add it to the pot. Toss in a couple of bay leaves, cloves, and black peppercorns. These spices are not essential; don't worry if you don't have them on hand. Cover the pot tightly with aluminum foil and a lid, and place in a 325°F oven. The corned beef is cooked when the meat is fork tender. For a typical 6-pound corned-beef brisket, start checking after 4 hours by poking a fork into the meat. If the meat is tough and doesn't yield easily to the fork, it's not done yet. Let the corned beef cool slightly, then lift it out of the cooking liquid.