Welcome to Super Food Nerds, a new column which will be written in alternating installments by me, Rupa (Food and Beverage Editor, Culinary Staff) and my colleague Jonathan (Research Librarian, same place). Each installment will be dedicated to a particular topic – how to DIY something you don’t normally DIY, how to perfect a dish usually taken for granted, plus best techniques, underlying chemistries and a handful of inexplicable preferences. Basically, if we can overthink it, we’re on it.
So, spring’s in the air, and naturally our thoughts are turning to beef. OK, that’s a lie, I was already thinking about beef — specifically, corned beef. There’s the whole St. Patrick’s Day thing, and I also really like corned beef. I’ve kept a mysterious bucket of brining beef in our kitchens’ walk-in fridge since last week, and have taken out pieces here and there to braise. After decent testing and rigorous eating, I’m pretty happy with the end result.
To make corned beef, you take a big, flavorful piece of meat and infuse it with even more flavor in the form of a salt-sugar-spice solution (aka brine) for way longer than you’d ever think you could safely keep meat in a fridge. Then, you cook it. The cumulative effect of beef, salt, sugar, spices and time is so much more than the sum of its parts that it’s sort of mind-blowing and unbelievably rewarding.
Here’s the gist (FAQ and recipe follow):