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Charcutepalooza Project #3 – Indian Spiced Corned Beef

March 15, 2011

So here we are on Charcutepalooza project #3 – Brining. Brining is oftentimes an overlooked method of preservation. Essentially a salt/sugar solution, brining infuses meat with moisture and flavors that penetrate whatever you want to cook, resulting in a tasty and juicy product. When the challenge first came out, I wasn’t necessarily excited. Part of the reason I joined Charcutepalooza was to do some things I have never done before. And of course, I’ve brined meats before (and I do it every Thanksgiving with  my turkey and with my fried chicken). But, as I started to read more about brining, I became more and more intrigued. It is a fantastic technique to apply to a variety of foods.

The basic challenge was to brine a chicken or pork chops. Frankly, I became so brine happy that I did both the basic and charcutier challenge. Here are my sage-lemon brined pork chops:

And here is the chicken I brined with herbs and lemon, garnished with roasted bell peppers, guanciale, broccoli, and celery leaves:

The big challenge, however, was to make your own corned beef. Corned beef is a staple of deli meat, usually made out of beef brisket and sometimes, beef tongue. To be perfectly honest, I never eat corned beef. I grew up in a traditional Indian household, so deli meat was not a big part of our diet. Most of the sandwiches I ate as a kid were turkey, vegetarian, or sometimes ham. Since I live in the South, the deli, in the traditional Jewish sense, is not a big concept. So when this challenge came out, I went to a New York style deli in Nashville, called Noshville. I ate both their corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, just to get a taste for these products that I wasn’t familiar with. The two products are essentially the same, the main difference being that pastrami is smoked and corned beef is braised. Noshville certainly makes some great meat and I was happy to have a benchmark to go off of.

What I really wanted to focus on, during this challenge, however, was the selection of my meat. I had an incident during challenge #1 where my duck prosciutto was less than stellar because I got some bad duck. So this time, I went straight to the Nashville Farmer’s Market and became friends with a great cattle farmer named Doug Bagwell. Doug and his wife, Sue, raise a breed of grass fed, humanely raised Limousin beef. The Limousin breed, with over 20,000 years of history, comes from the Limoges region of France. Although the beef is extremely lean, being comparable to similar portions of chicken and pork, it has tremendous flavor because it is dry aged. As such, it does not have the water weight that most commercial beef does. The meat has great flavor and texture, and I am glad to have procured a good quality brisket for the purposes of this month’s challenge.

As with other projects, like the homemade bacon (which has now become the most popular post in the history of Vivek’s Epicurean Adventures!) making corned beef is really freakin easy. You brine it with some pickling spices for 5 days. Once the meat comes out of the brine, you braise it with onions, carrots, pickling spice, and water until it’s tender – usually about 3 hours. You can serve it hot, ladled with some of the broth, or chill it and slice thin for sandwiches or hash. Michael Ruhlman, our guru of Charcuterie, says that most brines should be a 5% solution, that is 50 grams of salt per 1 liter of liquid. But, if you use a 3% solution (30 grams/1 liter), you can leave your meat in indefinitely, without it becoming too salty.

What really inspired me is that a lot of the spices in Ruhlman’s pickling spice recipe were reminiscent of India – ginger, cloves, and coriander. These were the spices I grew up with, so their flavor is not only familiar to me, but shows up in a lot of the Indian food we cook at home. So, I took a very traditional dish – Corned Beef & Cabbage, and gave it a little Indian spin. I sauteed the cabbage in some Indian spices and added some of the corned beef broth. With some turmeric roasted potatoes and mustard, this dish was a joy to eat. Now that I know how easy it is to make my own corned beef, I hope to smoke it now that the weather is getting warmer for pastrami. But it just goes to show, as this whole experience has already done, that preserving and serving flavorful meat is easy and affordable to do in your home. As long as you have quality products, like Doug’s beef, and proper technique, you can really make something special.

Indian Spiced Corned Beef and Cabbage

(Recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti)

For the potatoes:

2 Idaho potatoes, cut in half and then sliced into thin half moons

1/2 onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch piece of ginger, grated

1 jalapeño, minced

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Add some oil to a pan over medium heat. Add the turmeric, mustard seeds, and cumin and toast for about 2 minutes until very fragrant. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeño and toss to coat. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes and toss to coat with everything. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the potatoes are tender. Keep warm.

For the cabbage:

1 head of cabbage, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Beef broth (from the corned beef)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add some oil to a pan over medium heat and fry the mustard seeds, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne pepper until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and stir to combine. After about 1 or 2 minutes, add a few ladles of beef broth (from the corned beef) and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper.


Corned Beef, about 5 lbs

1 Recipe potatoes

1 Recipe cabbage

Whole Grain Mustard

Once you have braised the corned beef for 3 hours, take out of the broth and let rest for about 30 minutes. Slice the corned beef into thick slices and lay on a plate. Put some cabbage and some of the potatoes on the plate and put a good dollop of mustard on the plate. Have at it!

As always, I love doing these challenges and I’m glad it’s just in time for St. Patty’s Day! I can’t wait for what’s in store for April (HINT: it’s hot smoking!)!



12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2011 8:21 AM

    Indian beef, huh? Vishnu is going to strike you down.

  2. Pete permalink
    March 15, 2011 10:53 AM

    If you’re ever in the Cleveland area, coincidentally where Ruhlman is from, make a pit stop at Slyman’s for the best corned beef you’ll find in the country.

    It’s sad that what’s passed off as deli meat here in the south.

    Btw you’re food looks amazing…I’m getting hungry just reading your posts.

    • March 15, 2011 2:11 PM

      You know, I’ve never been to Cleveland, but I kinda want to make a trip!

  3. theveryhungrybookworm permalink
    March 15, 2011 11:31 AM

    wow. That sounds delicious! I love corned beef and I love Indian spices. The two combined must be fabulous 🙂

    • March 15, 2011 2:10 PM

      Yeah! I think Indian spices work particularly well with brines – great way to inject flavor into the meat.

  4. March 15, 2011 3:26 PM

    That Indian beef looks so amazing. And your chicken? Drool!

  5. March 15, 2011 3:42 PM

    Brilliant! I want to try this now.

  6. March 15, 2011 7:17 PM

    I love the Indian spin on your dish! I didn’t do the basic challenge but your chicken is kind of inspiring me…

  7. March 23, 2011 3:51 PM

    I’d never thought about the similarities in pickling spice and Indian food. Love that connection, Vivek! Thank you for a really thought provoking post. And thanks for being an enthusiastic supporter of Charcutepalooza.


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