I grew up HATING Saint Patrick’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I had nothing against the Irish, or the day itself. But it was the one day I knew for sure that all I would end up eating was potatoes. Because my family would go to our Irish friends’ house for dinner and get traditional corned beef and cabbage. My parents loved it.
Me? I thought it stunk. Horribly. Tasted like boiled socks, too. I apologize to anyone who actually likes it the traditional way – all boiled together for hours – but I could never stomach the stuff. I’d walk in the house, take a big whiff, and gag uncontrollably.
Let me assure you, I was an incredibly picky child (I was the one to pull cheese off the pizza crust before I’d eat pizza – and I’d only eat the crust). But this loathing continued into my adulthood. I have never, ever wanted to eat corned beef and cabbage, and even just last week I was telling my husband that I’d make it for him, if he really wanted it, but I refused to eat it.
Enter Trader Joe.
I was shopping yesterday (hungry, of course) and saw the display for their corned beef. I figured I’d just taste it. It didn’t smell horrible. I took a nibble. Hmmm…
It was salty and vinegary and slightly spicy. And stringy in just the right way. And good.
Not at all like the corned beef I remember – it used to be so tinny, and sort of like a big salt lick, and dry. This was complex and beautifully balanced, tender and flavorful. And YUMMY.
I bought the smallest piece I could find (not small – just under two pounds, fully cooked – and more than $12). I still wasn’t convinced enough to buy the two cabbage pack, but I called my husband to tell him that if he wanted some on his way home he should buy some.
I went the easy way, with the cooked piece of corned beef, mostly because I didn’t know how long it would have taken to correctly cook a raw piece. This only needed to be warmed before eating. I made boiled potatoes, tossed in butter and parsley, and green beans. Hubby was in charge of the cabbage.
He sliced it in thin ribbons and added a TON of garlic (about 6 cloves of garlic for one head of cabbage), and used our wok to stir-fry it until it was just barely softened (not mushy – it still had a lot of crunch – but mild). I took just a tiny portion to start with, and then added more. It was SO good – especially mixed together with the corned beef. Totally untraditional (um, wokked with garlic?) but super good.
It was strange, to enjoy so much what I had previously shunned. But it was a lesson that, if cooked properly, just about anything can be incredibly tasty. Of course I didn’t take a photo. But I’m sure I’ll be making the cabbage again (and the uneaten corned beef is in the freezer – so it will make another appearance too!).