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Day 228: New England Boiled Dinner


Today was not a good day for Spanx. It wasn’t the best day for a boiled dinner either, and I know, it could not sound less appetizing. Technically it wasn’t boiled, but slow-cooked. Either way an unusual choice – I’ve never eaten corned beef brisket before, let alone cooked one.

But. Every time I haul out my slow cooker (it’s not that big a deal, really) I get all giddy over it and go on a slow cooker kick for awhile before putting it away again. After the pulled pork fiasco I wanted to give it another go, so stopped at the grocery store on the way home and perused the meat section.

I’m not sure if you’ve seen those sealed plastic packages containing corned beef brisket in brine – they have them at Safeway, and every single time I see them I pause and ponder it, partly because they are foreign to me, and partly because Mike always said that corned beef brisket was the only thing his dad made for dinner growing up that was edible. His dad was famous for getting deals on cheap cuts of meat (shoes, really) and ancient chickens and boiling them in beer until they turned into some sort of unidentifiable jerky. Served with boiled-to-death potatoes and unpeeled carrots. And maybe some broccoli so mushy you could spread it on toast.

I figured a brisket, corned or not, was an ideal candidate for the slow cooker and so finally grabbed one, if only to shut up the little voice in my head that went hmm every time I saw them. For the past 20 years. (Mike and I started dating when I was 16. Or 17? Yes 17 – soon after the 1988 Winter Olympics. After having a crush on each other for a year and having teenage angst about it to everybody, our friends locked us in the basement at a party until we made out. Even then it took a good 4 hours to get the nerve up. So there you go – you know how old I am.) That adds up to a lot of time spent going hmm.

It turned out to be brilliant for the slow cooker – all I did was upend the package into the pot, cover it with water, and set it for 6 hours. (I wonder if Stephanie has tried this?) I was taking over traffic duties on CBC this afternoon and broadcasting live from Globalfest, so knew I wouldn’t arrive home until close to 7. After 6, Mike pulled the brisket out of its broth and set it aside, added some baby potatoes, chunked carrots and turnips (it seemed like a good fit) and wedges of cabbage to the broth – this is called New England Boiled Dinner – and it’s one of the recipes I pulled out of Cooking Light years ago and stuck in my to-make recipe binder. (Their photo looks far better than mine though.) So crank the slow cooker up to high and cook the veg until they are tender – or pour the broth into a pot and do the same thing – and you have these fantastically salty, seasoned veg to go with the meat.

The brisket did shred very satisfactorily with a fork – I love that. But overall I was less thrilled with it than Mike was. It was OK, but I wouldn’t likely make it again. Except the corned beef brisket part, which was damn tasty. It would make a fantastic Rueben, with saurkraut and Swiss cheese.

And I just realized that last night’s and tonight’s dinners rhyme – back bacon biscuit and corned beef brisket. Maybe Mike will write a song about it.


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7 comments on “Day 228: New England Boiled Dinner

  1. robyn
    August 16, 2008 at 10:22 am

    These are my favourite kind of dinners!

  2. Marita
    August 18, 2008 at 12:18 am

    Corned beef has been a big hit in my household since we discovered it a couple of years ago.

    Not sure what sort of broth you used to cook yours.

    We use about 1litre of brown vinegar with 1 cup of brown sugar, add some whole cloves, bayleaves and onion. Turns out delicious.

    I usually serve it with mashed pumpkin as my girls like to spread that out over the top of the meat instead of sauce.

  3. Marita
    August 18, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Oh and add water to the rest of the broth ingredients until the meat is covered – very important that part 😀

    I personally prefer the veggies cooked separate because otherwise they are way too salty.

  4. JulieVR
    August 18, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    I just used water – the easiest possible recipe – since the brisket was already corned, so had all the seasonings in there.

  5. Roseanna
    April 20, 2009 at 11:14 am

    We love corned beef in our house. Try coating the corned beef (after you pull it out of the broth) with a mixture of 3T. brown sugar and 1 T. dijon mustard. Throw in the oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or so. It looks so much prettier and tastes amazing. My mom always serve “boiled dinner” with her mustard sauce: 1/4 c. sour cream, 2T. mayo and 1 heaping T. dijon country style mustard, 1 tsp. dry mustard, salt and pepper to taste!

  6. Laura
    April 24, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    My mom used to make it in the pressure cooker, then my dad use to grill it on a spit (this was the best tasting way!), but mostly done in the crockpot. Did not use the spices that come with it. Cook for few hours in water, dump water in a large pot that the cabbage will go in. I think at this point is when the extra fat was trimmed from the outside. Add in some new water, brown sugar and Yellow mustard on top of the corned beef (and little in the water) and let cook a few more hours. Then cook cabbage with almost ready to eat in the corned beef water, gave the cabbage a little extra flavor. The brown sugar/mustard juice would condense some and could use ontop of the meat and cabbage.

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