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Give a sizzling twist to Corned Beef and Roasted Cabbage

| Sunday, March 8, 2009

My assistant, Mary, asked me how she could offer Irish fare with a twist on St. Patrick's Day. I suggested that she serve the ever-popular corned beef, but instead of boiling the traditional cabbage and potatoes, that she roast them to bring out their flavor. I also proposed that the corned beef be cooked with a medley of root vegetables and herbs to enhance its taste.

In my kitchen, we discovered that after several hours of simmering, the corned beef was fork-tender and beautifully infused (just like a French pot au feu ) with the flavor of carrots, onions and celery. The cabbage, which was cut into large strips that were sauteed in butter and oil, was then roasted in the oven until tender and lightly browned. The results were so delectable that even those who are not fans of this winter staple would be won over. Red-skin potatoes were sliced in wedges, drizzled with oil, and baked alongside the cabbage. They were golden on the outside and tender beneath. A sprinkling of chopped dill added color and zip to the vegetables.

Because St Paddy's Day falls on Tuesday this year, Mary has decided to cook the corned beef a day or two ahead. The night of her dinner, she'll reheat it in the same pot it was cooked in while she roasts the side dishes. For starters, she'll arrange smoked salmon on a platter with sliced Irish soda bread. Dessert will be a chocolate cake baked with an infusion of Irish whiskey and cups of hot Irish coffee.

Corned Beef and Roasted Cabbage

• 2 1/2- to 3-pound corned beef brisket (brined and sold in a sealed package)

• 2 medium-size carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices

• 2 medium-size ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch slices

• 1 large onion (8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges

• 2 bay leaves, broken in half

• 3 parsley sprigs

• 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely crushed, or 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

• 3-pound cabbage, preferably with several attractive outer leaves

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

• 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1 3/4 pounds red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch wedges

• 3 tablespoons chopped dill

• Dijon country mustard for serving, for serving

To prepare the corned beef : Place the roast and any seasonings it comes with in a large, deep pot with a lid. Add the carrots, celery, onion, bay leaves, parsley, peppercorns and enough water to cover the meat by at least an inch. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Lower the heat, cover and cook at a simmer, turning the meat several times, until tender when pierced with a knife, for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. (The corned beef can be cooked 2 days ahead; cool in pot, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.)

To prepare the cabbage and potatoes : Arrange a rack at the center position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove and reserve 4 attractive outer cabbage leaves for the garnish. Quarter cabbage and cut out and discard cores and any tough ribs. Cut each quarter lengthwise into 1-inch wide strips. Place the butter and 2 tablespoons oil in large, flameproof baking pan set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cabbage strips and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted and lightly browned, for 10 to 12 minutes. Season the mixture with1 teaspoon salt and several grinds black pepper.

Place the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in another flameproof baking pan (or on a heavy-rimmed baking sheet); add the potatoes and toss well to coat with the oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Place the cabbage and potatoes in the oven, and cook, uncovered, until the cabbage takes on a rich light brown color and is tender, for 30 to 35 minutes, and until the potatoes are golden brown, slightly crisp, and tender when pierced with a knife. Stir both the cabbage and potatoes every 10 minutes while in the oven. (If either dish is finished sooner than the other, remove and cover with foil.)

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, place the reserved cabbage leaves in it for 10 seconds, then drain, rinse in cold water, and pat them dry.

Slice the corned beef thinly and arrange slices on 4 individual dinner plates with some roasted potatoes. Place a cabbage leaf on each plate and spoon some roasted cabbage into it. Sprinklethe potatoes and cabbage with dill. Serve with a small bowl of mustard.

Makes 4 servings.

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