I can’t believe how fast this year is going! I just put away the St. Patrick’s Day decorations today and brought out the Easter ones. Today was the day for Corned Beef & Cabbage, a meal I make only once a year. The local Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day parade took place a few weeks ago already, but yesterday was the parade in Manhattan. It was far too cold for me to go out to the city, though we really thought about going this year.
My mother’s family is German, but my dad’s was German and Irish. My Nanny Catherine was Irish and my Baba was German. Nanny married a much older man, which was scandalous back in those days. She had two children by the time she was 18 and was taking care of her younger brother when her parents passed away. I can’t imagine having that level of responsibility at such a young age. When my grandfather passed away in his 60s, my grandmother was only 50 years old, younger than my current age.
My daughter Catherine is named after my grandmother Catherine, who was such a strong woman. I often think I resemble her in both looks and strength. She and I were very close when I was a young adult living on my own. I used to take the bus to her home on Seneca Avenue and have dinner with her once a week. She was a great cook, very different in style from my other grandmother, but still great. When she passed away, almost 30 years ago, I was pregnant with my middle son Stephen. I feel like she missed out on so much and am sad my children never got to know her well. They would have truly loved her.
When my nanny passed, I wanted only two items – her autograph book from junior high school and her piggy bank. The piggy bank, I wanted because as a young child my dad and I visited her every Sunday. During those visits, if we weren’t playing pinochle, I liked to pour out her change from the piggy bank and count it. The autograph book, I just wanted because it intrigued me. I’m really not one who collects items that aren’t personal, or sentimental. When I began reading the handwritten notes hidden in the autograph book, I quickly realized I had gotten something truly special. Inside the pages of this book were handwritten, secret love letters from my grandfather, who called himself “Duke”. Nobody had any idea they were there and were surprised by his tenderness. I treasure both of these items to this day. I wish my daughter had met her namesake, but know that she too carries her strength.
Today, in honor of my Irish grandmother – Catherine Rennick Hess, I made her Corned Beef & Cabbage recipe. It is super easy and super delicious. When I closed my eyes, the smells and taste brought me back to her flat on Seneca Avenue. Miss you, every single day!
Corned Beef & Cabbage
- Corned Beef Brisket-flat cut 3 1/2 to 4 pounds
- Spice packet that come with meat
- 2 large bay leaves
- 12 ounces of beer (Guinness)
- 1 cup of water
- 1 carrot (Cut into 4 pieces)
- 8-10 small golden potatoes, whole
- 1 green cabbage, small – Washed and cut into wedges
- Pour a glass of Guinness and turn on Alexa for dancing in the kitchen.
- Place the Corned beef, fat side up, onto the bottom of your stock pot.
- Add the spices from the package of corned beef.
- Add the carrot.
- Pour 12 ounces of beer and one cup of water over the beef.
- Cover the stockpot and place it over medium heat.
- Immediately reduce the heat to low. Allow the beef to cook for 90 minutes.
- At the ninety-minute mark, add your potatoes first, then the cabbage segments to the pot.
- Cover the pot and increase the heat to medium for five minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Cook everything for another 90 minutes.
- Remove the meat from the pot and place in oven safe dish.
- Brush with beef with a mixture of unsalted, melted butter and 1 tbsp of mustard.
- Cooke in oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
- Leave the cabbage and potatoes in the liquid on low heat as the meat bakes.
- When cooking is finished, the cabbage should be tender. The potatoes should be fork-tender.
- Discard the carrot and cooking liquid.
- Transfer the vegetables to a bowl.
- Carve meet thinly and serve immediately.