Friday, September 6, 2013

A St. Paddy's Day Story.

With the excitement of St. Patrick’s Day looming ahead, Kelly was downright giddy for the weekend. It had been years since she had a chance to go out with friends and celebrate the holiday in style!  But, still, deep down, there was a part of her that was torn. As much fun as a night out on the town promised to be, there was a part of her that longed to stay at home and concoct a festive and fantastic  St. Patrick’s Day Feast. 

“Aha!” She cried aloud, “I’ve got it. I will cook a St. Patrick’s Day spread on Sunday instead! 

She hadn’t intended for the exclamation to rhyme, but as you know, sometimes these things simply happen. All of the different possibilities swam throughout her head; colcannon, potatoes, corned beef… Ooh, I’ll make my own corned beef she thought.
After work, she happily drove over to Maltese and asked the woman behind the counter for a piece of a brisket.

“Is this ok?” asked the woman, holding up an absolutely giant hunk of meat.
Kelly smiled and nodded. 2.5 kilos of brisket was hers.

As she drove home, she started to wonder whether this was a good idea.  Thinking about the brisket it almost seemed a shame to brine and boil it. A cut like that should be smoked slowly and slathered with barbecue sauce. Mmmm…Barbecue.

Kelly had been perusing recipes and decided on one from Fine Cooking. An awesome website and even better Magazine. Boy did she have fun making the brine. Juniper berries, salt, brown sugar, and more; it was like 7th year potions at Hogwarts.
She had made the brine, trimmed the fat off of the meat and put it to refrigerate for the week in the brine.

But.. now what? She thought.
As much as she loved cooking, she did not like to just leave things alone! She liked to stir, poke, prod taste and generally monkey with the food and recipe as it was being prepared. A whole week just letting it sit there! How excruciating! Well, she did get to flip the brisket once a day. But that is practically nothing!

After what seemed a double long work week, the weekend had finally arrived! An exciting night out with the girls... And it was going to be fun. She donned a new dress and did her hair. She probably spent at least an extra half hour longer than she usually did to get ready. So about 36 minutes.

The night was exciting. Great friends.  People wearing giant Guinness hats at the Madhouse. Irish drinking songs at the Sovereign Room (and of course some fantastic food.) A brief stop at Crocks and then home before midnight- How responsible of her!

After about 4 hours of sleep, she woke with a start suddenly terrified about the corned beef.  She could sleep through a thunder storm no problem, but failure was far more terrifying What if it didn’t turn out? There were 12 people coming over for dinner. What if it is too salty...or not salty enough? What if all of that juniper makes it taste weird?

She hopped out of bed, tripping over the dog. She yelled a mild expletive and went out to the deep freeze in the garage, digging down through the icy depths for something that she could cook as a backup. Beef roast. Perfect.  She cradled her culinary savior as she walked back in the house and popped it into the microwave to defrost. Five minutes. Still frozen. Ten minutes. The plastic wrap was still frosty and the meat hardly yielded as she poked it repeatedly with her finger. Defrost already!

As it defrosted, Kelly once again began to question her judgment, wondering if all people were this indecisive in the morning. She logged into facebook and asked the best way to cook corned beef. Everyone gave a different answer than what she was planning.
About 15 minutes later the microwave beeped to alert her that the roast was good to go. She placed it into the Crockpot with a half a jar of Carolina mustard BBQ sauce and set it on low.

She ambled back up the stairs, her terror of failure quenched; knowing as she had a backup if some reason something went wrong.
Back out of bed. Kelly smiled and thought how lovely it was that her parents offered to take the kids over March break. They would be back that evening, but a 10am lie in was quite a luxury!

After a day of doing not all that much other than enjoying a quiet house, it was time to get to work.

With much trepidation she rinsed off the brisket and submerged it into clean, cold water, placed it on the stove and turned on the heat, cringing all the while. 

After a few moments the first bubbles started to rise lazily from the bottom of the pot, and the exterior of the meat started to look grey. What had she done! She picked up a fork and gently prodded the meat. Just as she suspected- It was like shoe leather! Resigning the potentially awesome cut to its fate she returned the lid and let it cook, turning her attention to the pot roast, the potatoes and the menu items that would hopefully not suck.

After an hour she dared take another peek..and poke.

It had softened up considerably. She wondered if she dare take a taste. Redundant question.  Of course she was going to take a taste. She sliced a little piece off of the end, slowly brought the fork to her lips, and with eyes closed, placed the piece of boiled meat into her mouth. “Oh My Stars!” she said, oblivious to the fact that she was talking with her mouth full.  Absolutely fantastic! She stole another piece from the pot and turned the heat down even lower- excited to share the dish with her pals.

Elated and relieved, she popped the cork out of a bottle of sparkling wine and made herself a Kir royale, sat on the deck enjoying sunlight and small victories.

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