Nick Roumel: Are YOU a 'shipwrecked Greek?' Then take a look at THIS corned beef recipe

I once interviewed for a job with Eternal General Frank Kelley.

While he did not hire me, upon learning I was Greek, he left me with this cryptic wisdom: "All Irish are merely shipwrecked Greeks."

I've been puzzling over that statement ever since, but today I think it means I have to offer a traditional Irish recipe, just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

So I've been envisioning using Corned Beef in an unusual way - on an oversized homemade breakfast biscuit, perhaps with a slice of Swiss cheese and an over easy egg, sort of a riff on a breakfast Reuben.

Having said that, I'll let you in on a secret: Corned Beef is no more of a historically Irish dish than a Greek one.

As a traditional St. Patrick's Day meal, Corned Beef and Cabbage is something that really flourished in America, after the first wave of Irish immigration.

Historically, the Irish never ate much meat because it was so expensive, and so was the salt used in curing.

Even during the Great Famine the poor tenant farmers exported huge quantities of salt beef at the behest of their greedy landlords, unable to afford it for themselves.

(Alas, this issue never arose during my many years of representing tenants.)

The salt-cured beef they exported came to be called "corned," because of the large grains of coarse salt (in old English, ''corns'') used to extend the beef's shelf life without refrigeration.

So what do they actually eat on St. Patrick's Day in Ireland?

A recent Irish radio poll revealed answers such as this: "Eat? I eat pints."

Another respondent referred to a pint of Guinness as a "shamrock sandwich."

Those who do get around to supper might be more inclined to have a "bacon joint" - a cut of salted and/or smoked pork - than anything else.

But the conclusion of the survey, which also included an inspection of what local supermarkets offered for sale, found no particular food item featured for "The Day."

Notwithstanding Irish tradition, eating Corned Beef on St. Patrick's Day has become so popular that various Bishops will even grant special dispensation to permit Catholics to eat it should "The Day" happen to fall on a Friday during Lent.

Fortunately, this year St. Patrick's Day falls on a Thursday, which may explain why motion dockets throughout the state are so light for the 17th.

Our Corned Beef recipe includes a wee bit of Guinness, if you can bear to sacrifice enough of that creamy deliciousness from your own glass.

What it does not include is a nitrate or saltpeter - used to give the meat an appetizing pink color, but perhaps not so good for you. But if you eschew the nitrate, don't be surprised if your finished product is on the gray side - though no less delicious.

Homemade Corned Beef is surprisingly easy to make, although planning ahead is necessary - but when you taste the finished product, so moist, tender, and flavorful - you'll be glad you did.

Homemade Corned Beef

Ingredients

(6-8 lb) beef brisket, trimmed with some fat remaining

Brine Ingredients

6 cups water and 2 cups lager beer

1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup golden brown sugar

1/4 cup pickling spices (in the spice aisle)

Brine Preparation

Pierce brisket with a knife in several places, and place in a large plastic bag with the brine ingredients.

Place in a sturdy pot or roasting pan and refrigerate for a week, turning occasionally to make sure it stays covered.

At the end of the week, remove from the brine and rinse well.

Discard the brine and make a fresh pot to boil the brisket in the following simmering liquid.

Simmering Liquid Ingredients

1 12-ounce bottle Guinness stout or other stout or porter

4 bay leaves

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

2 whole allspice

1 dried red chile, broken in half

Vegetables, if using: turnips, rutabagas, potatoes, carrots, onions, parsnips, cabbage

Simmering Preparation

Place the simmering ingredients in a large, wide pot, and add enough water to cover the beef by about an inch.

Boil and reduce to a low simmer, covered, for about 2 1/2 hours.

Remove the beef, and if using vegetables, add those and boil for an additional 25 minutes.

Slice the beef across the grain.

And there you have it! Serve with homemade oversized buttermilk biscuits (another recipe for another day) or good rye bread, and your favorite accoutrements.

Your guests will be so busy stuffing themselves that they won't be able to protest that this is not what "Real" Irish eat - but if they do, just tell them the recipe was brought to Ireland by the shipwrecked Greeks, and give them seconds.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation.

He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine.

Published: Thu, Mar 3, 2011

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