New England Boiled Dinner (NOT)

…nothing was boiled


The Fatted Calf newsletter contained an interesting entry the Friday before St. Patrick’s Day. Of course they’re pushing their corned beef brisket, but for me it conjured up memories of the many New England Boiled Dinners I had enjoyed over the years. Most especially 2006, when I thoroughly researched both making corned beef and the best way to cook a New England Boiled Dinner. I still haven’t made a corned beef myself — I know good meat people who have been making and selling corned beef for years — but the making of the dinner is pure pleasure.

Cooking corned beef is pretty simple, and the Fatted Calf “recipe” was pretty simply stated (I did have to look up the definition of a low oven — 250 to 300 degrees — 250 being very low, 300 being low):

from the Fatted Calf newsletter March 12

Cooking Corned Beef
You’ve done it. You planned ahead. You remembered to order your Corned Beef Brisket from Fatted Calf in time for St. Patrick’s Day. You lugged it home in a market bag overflowing with squeaky heads of cabbage, buttery-fleshed potatoes, elegant carrots, stately leeks and bundles of fragrant herbs.  You also bought some bacon, just in case.
You have your casserole that is deep and wide enough to accommodate your hunk of beef.  Into your cooking vessel you toss a leek roughly chopped, a few carrots peeled but left whole, a clove or three of garlic, a stalk of celery and sprigs of thyme and parsley.  Atop this aromatic bed you nestle your corned beef brisket and then cover it all with water and perhaps a generous splash of beer. You place all of this in a low oven to simmer until tender.
You wait and wait.  Waiting is hungry business.  Good thing you picked up some of those beer links to nosh on.
Three hours have passed and when you prod your brisket with a skewer it is tender and yielding.  The potatoes are boiled, buttered and showered with parsley.  The cabbage you have decided to sauté with the bacon (which it turns out you really did need).  Mustard and horseradish wait patiently in their respective bowls.  The only worry is, “will there be enough left for sandwiches tomorrow?”
See you at the market!

Their newsletter worked. I bought their corned beef brisket and I must say it was lovely.

The first element of cooking a New England Boiled Dinner is inviting four or more folks over to help eat it. Even a small brisket is way more than two can eat. Mine was 3 1/2 pounds. I ordered a Mariquita Mystery Box that week, so I had some interesting vegetables on hand, the rest I picked up at the Farmers Market Saturday morning.

With the Fatted Calf “Cooking Corned Beef” essay hanging on the cupboard door, I got started with the brisket.

It would fit perfectly in the blue oval Le Creuset pot. I made the bed of vegetables and put the corned beef on top, put in 1 cup Stella Artois and 1 1/2 quarts water to cover and brought to a simmer, skimming, at which point I stuck it in a 300° oven and set the timer for three hours.

bed of vegetables

bed of vegetables

corned beef brisket

corned beef brisket

ready for oven

ready for oven

Cooking in the oven makes it super easy, no worries about fussing with the flame to keep the pot at a bare simmer.

With no worries, I watched some of the NC2A basketball and then started my vegetable prep. Peeled, cut in half and trimmed the rutabagas; peeled the carrots, cleaned and trimmed the calcot onions, nothing to do but trim the red turnips, and all I had to do with Andy’s new potatoes was get them out of the fridge and sort by size.


From the top — Savoy cabbages, calcot onions (a large, Spanish variety of green onion), rutabagas, new potatoes, carrots, red turnips.

After 2 1/2 hours I checked the brisket… a skewer went through pretty easily, but I let it go for the full three hours and turned off the oven.


I put in the red steamer I got at the SFMOMA Store in the 4-quart Calphalon soup pot, and brought the water to a boil. Set the timer for 15 minutes and put in the rutabagas and turnips. At 12 minutes, put in the larger potatoes. At 10 minutes, put in all the rest of the vegetables.

Meanwhile, I sliced the corned beef… that was odd… the meat was very tender, but would crumble, rather than slice… probably overly tender, but it tasted damn good. Anyway, I put the massacred meat in the center of the serving platter, took the vegetables out of the steamer with tongs and arranged on the platter.


Platter on the table, I ladled out some of the broth and bathed the meat and vegetables. Folks came to the platter to serve themselves. On the table were Raye’s mustards, a sliced Italian batard and a gravy boat of broth.

Damn fine dinner. The platter wasn’t licked totally clean, but precious little was left. Matt n Andrea brought a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin and I served the more pedestrian Cline Oakley Five Reds.

Carol made lemon panna cotta for dessert and served with red raspberries and lemoncello.
All was yummy.


One thought on “New England Boiled Dinner (NOT)

  1. I love to see the Rayes’ — and that’s a perfect dish to feature them with.


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