I know it’s still only January, but I’m already prepared for St. Patrick’s Day in March. You see, while I do enjoy the annual meal of corned beef and cabbage, when I really think about it, it’s not my favorite meal. The beef can often be tough and rubbery, and honestly when was the last time you really enjoyed a dinner that was entirely boiled? That’s not to say that you can’t make a tasty meal out of boiled corned beef, but I’ve found a much easier way to make a delicious corned beef dinner using a terra cotta clay baker.
Terra cotta clay bakers have been around for … well, almost forever. There is evidence of the Romans using earthenware in their cooking, putting clay pots right in the ashes of their fires. Native North Americans also used wet clay pots, putting them into a fire and ending up with moist delicious foods. So, it’s not that clay bakers are new, but they might be new to you, having been pushed aside a little by cast iron Dutch ovens and other metal cookware.
The best thing about clay bakers is that they create and maintain moisture in the cooking process and yet still allow the foods to brown inside. The result is delicious and the procedure is so simple. All you have to do is soak the top and bottom of the clay baker in cold water ahead of time for 15 to 30 minutes. Then, with your food inside, you place the clay baker into a cold oven and turn the oven on. While the soaked baker is in the oven, it releases moisture back into the food in a self-basting method.
Then there’s the versatility of a clay baker. Not only does it make a delicious baked corned beef, but you can use it to make loaves of bread and of course it’s perfect for a simple roast chicken. You can even use a clay baker in a microwave (if your microwave is bigger than the baker).
But I was talking about St. Patrick’s day… The idea of boiling a corned beef brisket for 3 to 4 hours does not appeal to me. Still, I acknowledge that corned beef brisket does need a moist cooking method in order to not dry out. A clay baker, which creates and sustains moisture while baking, seemed like a perfect solution. So, I roasted the brisket inside a soaked clay baker on top of a bed of red cabbage, onion and apple, putting it in the oven for just 2 hours and the result … delicious. Do yourself a flavor this March 17th and don’t boil, but clay bake that brisket!
Clay Baked Corned Beef with Red Cabbage
- 3 pound corned beef brisket
- ½ large red cabbage, shredded
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 apple, thinly sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Soak the clay baker and lid in cold water for 30 minutes. Remove from the water and dry the inside.
- While you soak the baker, prepare the corned beef by placing it in a large stockpot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, drain and discard the water. Fill the pot with fresh water and bring to the boil again. Drain again and dry the corned beef brisket.
- Toss the cabbage, onion, apple, bay leaves, sugar, salt and freshly ground black pepper together in a large bowl and transfer to the clay baker. Pour in the red wine.
- Place the corned beef brisket on top of the cabbage. Mix the honey and mustard together and brush this on the corned beef. Cover with the lid.
- Transfer the clay baker to a COLD oven and turn the oven on to 350º F.
- Bake for 2 hours without opening the lid or the oven door. The internal temperature of the brisket should be around 185ºF when fully baked. Let the brisket cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then slice against the grain and serve with the cabbage.