Thursday, March 13, 2014

An Irish-Italian Fusion Corned Beef Recipe

Whole beef shanks are rarely used in the US, but they are popular in Italy. That’s why I decided to use them in my corned beef. They fuse together my two culinary legacies:  the Irish one the one I was born into, and the Italian one I’ve adopted.
I’d never brined shanks before, but it made sense to me because they’re very flavorful and take well to braising.
I got the shanks whole, deboned them (see note) and brined them over four weeks.
A couple of days before I serve my shanks I will cook them with more spices, garlic, onion and water and wait for the drum roll!!

Beef Shanks Being Cured at Tre Piani
4 lbs. kosher salt
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
12 cups coriander seeds
12 juniper berries
24 black peppercorns
12 red peppercorns
18 allspice berries
8 whole cloves
6 bay leaves
About 5 lbs. beef shanks

Brine the beef:
In a large, lidded pot, bring 4-1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and sugar and bring back to a boil.
Tie the spices in a piece of cheesecloth and add to the boiling water. Boil to dissolve the salt and sugar. Then remove from the heat, pour in 6 cups of ice-cold water, and let cool to room temperature.
Add the meat and bay leaves to the brine, making sure the meat is completely immersed, and cover tightly. Refrigerate 4 days for brisket or up to 2 weeks for a whole top round roast and 4 weeks for shanks. Turn every so often.

To cook:
3 Tbs. pickling spice
1 Tbs. black peppercorns
2 bay leaves  
2 onions, halved
5 large cloves garlic, smashed

Tie pickling spice and peppercorn in a cheesecloth.
Place a large stockpot on the stove and put in the corned beef. Add cheesecloth, onion, garlic, bay leaves and several quarts of water (at least enough to comfortably cover the meat). Bring the water to a boil. Then, turn down the temperature and allow the corned beef to simmer for about 4 hours or until it is nearly fork-tender.

  • Whole deboned shanks are hard to come by. Order them at local farms such Beechtree Farm or Brick Farm Market. Be sure to order the shanks well in advance.
  • Beef shanks are best the day after they are cooked. Braise them and then let them cool in the braising liquid. Reheat them before serving.
  • You can also make this recipe with top roast or brisket.
  • To preserve the beef’s color you can use a little bit of curing salt.

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