No doubt plans are already starting to raise their heads for the St. Patrick's Day season and it's just as well to have some recipes for entertaining in your arsenal. We've got a great canape idea for you. Lets call it the "new Irish" - a twist on the traditional much loved Irish recipe.
Back before the days of electricity and refrigeration, one of the few ways to preserve meat for the winter season was to salt cure it. In fall, when temperatures were chilly and cold, cows were harvested, and the meat packed into wooden barrels between alternating layers of coarse salt.
This salt was roughly the size of kernels of corn; hence the term "corned" beef. Salting also gives the beef its pungent, piquant flavor and chewy fibrous texture as well.
So why salt?
Salt is excellent at removing moisture from cells via osmotic pressure. Too much salt can make us feel thirsty, as it naturally drives water from our cells. This is why salt "cures" animal flesh so effectively. It also creates an environment that is hostile to bacteria and fungus as well.
Boiling is essential in driving out salt, and tenderizing the meat. Cabbage is an excellent "wintering" vegetable because of its high density, and it keeps well in root cellars—artificial "caves" dug beneath ground—hence the natural combination of corned beef and cabbage in winter. It's of interest that corned beef is rarely prepared this way any longer, but is "wet cured" in a brine solution with spices.
New York City is perhaps best known as the capital city of corned beef. St. Patrick's Day often sees New York hosting the nation's premier corned beef competitions, featuring the best of the corner deli best, including Blarney Stone, Casey's, Fitzpatrick Hotel, Grandstand, The Kettle Black, and Langan's, all prime purveyors of salty beef piled mile high with hearty pickle on rye.
Corned beef and cabbage, however, similar to that served at the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade, may have originated in the United States and only recently found its way to Ireland. Some claim that corned beef and cabbage originated in New York City, and that is why New York City is known for the best corned beef and cabbage in the world.
The argument can be made that corned beef is about as Irish as General Tso's chicken is Chinese. Indeed, you'd have less difficulty tracking down the meat in a New York bar than in a Dublin pub. But don't judge the dish too harshly. This briny brisket fed the folks that made America—just as our cities were built on carry-out Chinese, anchored by the inauthentic fried egg roll.
CORNED BEEF & CABBAGE SPRING ROLLS
10 spring roll wrappers
6 cups hot water for soaking wrappers
1lb cooked white cabbage or use a 16oz. package of Sauerkraut, drained
1 medium onion, finely minced
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tbs olive oil
½ lb thinly sliced corned beef, julienne
½ tsp ground black pepper
4 oz. shredded Swiss cheese, chilled
1 quart peanut oil or other high heat oil
Thousand Island dressing
Oh, and don't forget the cool, frothy Guinness, not for the recipe but just to have while making the dish!
Sauté the minced onion in olive oil over a medium flame until translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Place cooked cabbage or sauerkraut in a lint-free dishcloth and wring out any remaining water or brine. Place cabbage or sauerkraut in large mixing bowl. Add pepper, caraway seeds, onion, and cheese. Mix thoroughly. Set aside.
Soak one spring roll wrapper in hot water. Use tongs to remove wrapper. Place on prep area. Wrapper may stick so a lint-free cloth may be used under wrapper.
Ingredients should be added 1 inch from the edge closest to the preparer.
Add 6 slices of corned beef and then cabbage from the left to right side of the spring roll wrapper. You may have to adjust amounts, less or more, depending on the size of the wrapper or desired fullness. Fold left and right sides of wrapper over edges of filling. Roll wrapper from bottom. Repeat with remaining spring roll wrappers.
Heat the oil to 375F. Fry spring rolls until golden brown and drain on paper towels. Cut in half. Serve hot with a side of Thousand Island dressing.
Traditional Irish fare but with an modern day twist, corned beef and cabbage spring roll.
* Originally published in 2013.