Normal boiled corned beef for St. Patrick's Day is delicious, but New York deli-style is a great way to go, too. Anyone can make it -- and you get a huge hunk of meat for way less than the price of a $11.75 Corned Beef Sandwich at Canter's Deli (their menu here.) I bought a 2.67-pound slab of beef for $3.39. It's enough, when cooked and sliced, for three huge Corned Beef Sandwiches. That's a great deal; more than 99 cents per sammy, but not by much.
The only extra step, compared to a classic boiled Irish corned beef preparation, is to soak the beef in an herb, spice, sugar and salt brine for a few days. The salt and sugar cures the beef, while the herbs and spices give it a distinctive flavor. Afterward, you just boil the beef for 4 hours; allow it to cool down; then slice and stack it between two pieces of bread. I like to add mustard, cheese and coleslaw to my deli sandwich, how about you?
Back to Homemade Deli-Style Corned Beef Sandwiches -- I wanted to try something different with the on-sale beef brisket. I feel priced-out of regular deli dining these days, with sandwiches in the $10 plus range. My favorite deli sandwich is a Corned Beef on Rye with Coleslaw (slaw on the sandwich, not as a side.) It's cool and crunchy, plus meaty and rich, but too much of a good thing. So, by making it at home I can control the amount of meat that a typical deli over-loads between two slices of bread -- and I can scoop as much coleslaw into the sandwich as I want.
You can corn the beef a couple of ways with salt: either by a "dry rub" mix, or by totally submerging the beef in a bath of salt, also known as brining. To get that supple and moist texture of typical deli meat, brining is best. Also, spices and sugar are mixed into the brine solution for extra flavor. For my deli corned beef I'm keeping it to spices you may already have on hand -- and if you don't, that's okay; just use what you got, it will still be delicious. The main ingredients for corning the beef are salt and sugar.
The only thing to watch out for is an over-salty corned beef. The brisket needs to brine/soak for about five days in the refrigerator. When you are ready to cook it, give it a good rinse. Next place the brisket in a pot and cover it with water. Bring to a low boil and cook 10 minutes or so, to leech out most of the salt. Finally, change out the water one last time and it's ready for slow simmering.
You'll also want a batch of your favorite coleslaw to go along with my Homemade Deli-Style Corned Beef Sandwich. And, if you want a real deli coleslaw recipe, then check back here next week: I've got one so good your guests will ask if are moonlighting at Canter's Deli, while checking out your legs, looking for those waitress's sensible shoes and granny stockings!
This cheapest of chefs knows all about local sandwich makers -- just check out my Los Angeles Sandwich Video Tour from last month, here. And, below is a another flashback video I shot in 2008 of Canter's Delicatessan's 60th anniversary. For that day only, Corned Beef Sandwiches cost 60 cents! My friend Drew and I were all over that deal. Even though there was a "one sandwich per customer limit," the incorrigible 99 Cent Chintzy Chef found a way around that roadblock - just watch the video to see how I did it.
And at the end of this post I also provided a Quickie Corned Beef Version for your convenience.
Canter's Deli's 60 Cent Corned Beef Sandwich - VIDEO
Play it here. Video runs 1 minutes, 45 seconds.
To view or embed from YouTube, click here.
Ingredients for Brining Corned Beef
- 1/2 cup of salt
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar - okay to use regular sugar, or a favorite sweetener like honey.
- 1 tablespoon of peppercorns - or regular black pepper.
- 1 tablespoon powdered ginger - or fresh chopped.
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder - also, chopped fresh or from jar.
- 1 tablespoon ground paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground, or whole, cloves
- 2 whole bay leafs - crumbled. Or other favorite dried herb.
- 4 cups of water - or enough to cover brisket.
- Container and one large Ziplock bag to hold brisket and brine/marinade.
- I also added the spice packet from the packaged Corned Beef - optional.
Directions for Brining
Heat water in a pot until it starts to simmer. Mix in sugar and salt and stir until it all dissolves - should only take 2 to 4 minutes. Add all the spices and bay leaves. (I also opened the corned beef package and poured in the spice packet that comes with it - optional.) Mix well and turn off heat. It needs to cool down to room temperature. You can add some ice cubes to speed it up, or just come back in half an hour.
Remove the brisket and rinse it off. I used a large freezer plastic bag for brining. Add the brisket to the plastic bag and add enough cooled brine liquid to cover the meat, then seal it. You could also use a large plastic, ceramic, or glass container with a cover. I then placed the bag of brine and brisket into a plastic container, in case the bag accidentally opens during the 5 days of brining in the refrigerator.
After a couple of days I turned the plastic bag over, so all sides of the brisket get enough brining solution. After 5 days it's time to cook the corned beef.
Ingredients (after brining)
- 1 whole brined brisket by an inch.
- Water - enough to cover brisket.
- 1 whole chopped carrot - optional
- 1 whole chopped onion - optional
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic - fresh or from jar.
- 1 bay leaf
First dump the brine and rinse off the brisket. Add the brisket into a large pot and pour in enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a low boil and cook for about 10-15 minutes. This will leech out most of the salt. Pour out the salty water.
Now it's time to finish it all up. Just add enough fresh water to cover the brisket by an inch. Add the chopped veggies and bay leaf. Bring up the water to a boil, then lower the heat for a low simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 4 hours.
Check every hour or so to make sure the broth does not cook out. Add a 1/4 cup of water at a time, if needed. That's it -- just remove the corned beef and let it cool down enough to slice and serve.
When slicing the corned beef for sandwiches make sure to cut across the grain of the meat. Of course, you'll want to try out a slice to see how yummy it is. Notice how compact the meat is and its rosy color inside. It may still taste a little salty, but that's normal.
For a Deli-style Corned Beef Sandwich just add mustard to rye bread. Layer on your favorite cheese, corned beef and coleslaw. From a 2.67 pound of corned beef brisket, I made 3 sandwiches. I served them to my wife, mother-in-law and our neighbor Deb -- they all raved how delicious it was. I hope you will like it too!
There are a couple of other ways to cook the corned beef. After brining, you should still do the first short boiling to remove the excess salt. Then, you can refill an oven-proof pot (one that has a lid) with fresh water, covering the meat by an inch. Add the veggies, then cover and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 3 hours. Finally, remove the cover and finish baking another hour -- this will give a nice dark brown color to the outside of the meat.
You could also combine boiling and baking. Do the quick corned beef boil to remove the excess salt. Change to fresh water, add veggies, cover the pot and low simmer for 3 hours. Finally, remove the cover, move it into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for an hour -- to get the nice brown outside color.
If you want a more spice-flavored corned beef:, mix up a fresh batch of brining spices - using 1/2 half the amount though, but leaving out the salt and sugar, then add spices during the last fresh water 4-hour cooking stage.
Most beef corning recipes also called for salt peter or "pink" brining salt. It's used mainly to keep the meat a rosy pink color. I left these hard-to-get ingredients out. As you can see from my photos, the interior looked just like a professional slice of cured deli meat -- maybe those additions kept the outside pink as well? I like the brown exterior for contrast.
Quickie Corned Beef Version
Just take out the corned beef from package and rinse it off. In a pot of boiling water add the corned beef along with the contents of the seasoning that come with the corned beef. Also add the "after brining" ingredients listed above.
Cook the corned beef as described above, either stove top boiling or oven baking.
The flavor is not as intense as brining, but is is the next best thing and your dining guest will not know the difference -- as long as you don't spill the beans!