In case you were wondering…

.this is what I look like at my most relaxed.

There’s that moment in cooking process when you’re no longer focused on the mechanics of cooking, you’re just doing.

corned beef

Sort of.

If I’m being completely honest, about two hours before this photo, I was on the phone with my mother asking for more precise instructions. I had never cooked corned beef before, and I was hours away from hosting a crowd of fifteen. The chicken soup you see off to the side was my Plan B.

I should know better.

After all, this isn’t the first time, I’ve done such a thing. So, rather than cooking as a form of meditation, this was baptism by fire. Wait—that’s a poor choice of words.

Moving on.

I’d say there’s not much to it—and to a certain degree, that’s true. But, I think that has to do with good instruction. With having someone to guide you. Largely the point for me of cooking the nostalgic foods, in fact.

Really, though, there isn’t much to making corned beef well. Just two essential steps: the first boil, designed to get rid of a lot of the impurities, and the final bake, which gives a nice crust. Then, there’s the waiting. It’s worth it, not least if you have a crowd of fifteen waiting hungrily to eat…

Corned Beef

1 beef brisket, fat trimmed (4-6 pounds)
pickling spices (if you buy packaged corning beef, use what’s included. Otherwise, you should use a combination of red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, garlic, and black peppercorns)
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup grainy mustard

Place the beef brisked in a large pot and fill it with water. Bring to a boil. Once the water is at a rolling boil, strain the corned beef from the pot, rinsing it off. Refill the pot with water and corned beef, adding in the picking spices and bay leaves. Boil for 2-3 hours depending on the size of the beef.

In the last half hour of boiling, preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the honey and mustard together.

Remove the beef from the pot, pat dry and place in a baking dish, fat side down. Using a pastry brush, cover the corned beef with the honey mustard mixture. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a crust has formed. Allow the meat to rest for ten minutes before slicing.

Serve with rye bread and mustard.

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