How to Shop for Corned Beef and Cabbage for Your St. Patrick's Day Meal
While not exactly Irish in heritage, corned beef and cabbage is an undeniable star of Irish American St. Patrick's Day celebrations. This cured delicacy is made from taking a beef brisket and pickling it in a solution of salt, sugar, and spices like peppercorns and mustard seeds. The end result is an ultra-tender braise that is firm enough to cut into neat slices and has a perfectly balanced sweet-sour-spiced flavor. It's exactly those qualities—bold, salty, and assertive—that make it excellent for pairing with milder ingredients that complement rather than compete for the spotlight (enter stage right: cabbage). But before you can prepare this classic St. Patrick's Day meal, you'll need to shop for all the necessary ingredients.
The Corned Beef
Sure, you can make the corned beef completely from scratch if you have the time and the fridge real estate (here's our quick version!), but you can also purchase one that's already cured from your local supermarket or butcher shop. You'll usually find it in vacuum-sealed packages, and there are two different cuts on offer: the "flat" and the "point."
Flat cuts of corned beef are the most common; they are rectangular, even in thickness, and relatively lean. For flat cuts, buying about 3/4-pound per person will ensure that there's plenty for dinner and enough for leftover hash and sandwiches the next day. The "point" cut is thicker, smaller, and marbled with much more fat and connective tissue. This cut is cherished by chefs and butchers for braising up super-tender and moist, but because it will release a lot more fat into the braising liquid, it is not ideal for recipes that cook the meat and vegetables together in a sauce you'll later serve. Point cuts also shrink significantly more than flat, so plan on one pound per person if you choose to go that route.
Whether by standard pot, multi-cooker, or slow cooker, the cabbage is often cooked in the same vessel as the beef; in this case, green cabbage will hold up better than more delicate varieties like Napa. Frilly savoy cabbage is easier to slice into and great for sautéing or even roasting. One medium head of standard cabbage (about two pounds) will be enough to serve four to six people.
It is customary to serve one or two additional vegetables with corned beef and cabbage. Carrots can keep their shape through long bouts of cooking, so they are a good choice if you plan on simmering everything together in one pot. Potatoes are another classic carb that you can anchor your meat and lighter vegetables down with. Lastly, no plate will be complete without a dollop of mustard, be it Dijon, whole-grain, or spicy, you're going to want this condiment at your side to enhance and liven up each and every bite.