For years, my husband Jack has wanted to share his recipe for New England Boiled Dinner here on A Family Feast. I’m going to admit – I pretty much shot the idea down – thinking that there really isn’t much to making a New England Boiled Dinner! The classic meal consists of corned beef and cabbage, plus other boiled root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips, parsnips and beets.
(I will also admit – I’ve never been much of a fan of the meal either. Typically – tough, overcooked corn beef and mushy boiled vegetables…)
So after three-plus years of blogging, and with St. Patrick’s Day just a month away – when Jack once again suggested making his New England Boiled Dinner recipe, I finally said “OK”.
Jack made his New England Boiled Dinner, and after we were done with the photography you see here – and after we ate some of this meal for lunch, I said to Jack, “That was the best boiled dinner I have ever had! I wish we made it sooner!” (The look of satisfaction on Jack’s face was priceless – plus I think he enjoyed hearing me admit that I was wrong!) 😉
Jack’s New England Boiled Dinner was so good for several reasons. First, the flavors that he incorporated into the “boiling” liquids were perfect! Also each component of the meal was cooked to perfection – not over or under cooked. So – Jack’s recipe below is as much about technique as it is flavors and ingredients.
When Jack made this New England Boiled back during his food service days, they typically prepared this dish by cooking each of the components separately a day or two in advance – NOT by throwing everything into one big pot to boil! So, for our recipe today – Jack is applying that same concept for a home cooked New England Boiled Dinner. Then – when the meal is ready to be served, each vegetable would be served on a large platter alongside the corned beef.
Jack also shares other tips and tricks that he learned throughout the years – including how to press the fat out of the corned beef meat after cooking, and thickening the broth to serve over the cooked meat and vegetables. I will warn you that Jack’s recipe below is fairly lengthy because he describes his method for making a perfect New England Boiled Dinner in depth. But I think you’ll be thrilled with the results!
- 4 ½ pounds raw corned beef, I used point cut (once cooked; only about a third of that weight will be usable so plan accordingly and buy more if feeding a crowd. Two thirds gets lost in cooking and trimming)
- 10 peppercorns
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon whole mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- ¼ teaspoon whole all spice berries
- ½ inch square piece of whole fresh ginger
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- (Alternately you can omit the spices and use a commercial pickling spice mix)
- 3 pounds green cabbage
- 2 pounds new red potatoes
- 2 pounds carrots
- 2 pounds whole small onions (8 onions weighing 4 ounces each)
- 1 pound yellow or white turnip
- 1 pound parsnips
- 1 pound yellow beets
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- Place corned beef and any liquid from the bag into an 8 quart pot and fill with cold water. Bring to a boil and skim off foam that floats to the top. Reduce to a medium simmer and cook uncovered for three hours, replacing hot water every 30 minutes or so to keep water to the top. After three hours, let sit in water off burner for 15 minutes then remove to a sheet tray. The spice bag mix does not get used while the corned beef is cooking. Corned beef has enough flavor on its own and you want the taste of the meat to shine.
- OK, here is trick number one. In food service, we would cook the corned beef the day prior, place in the cooler with a heavy weight on top and the next day, any grains of heavy fat intermingled throughout the meat would be squeezed out yielding a less fatty looking slice. To do this at home and to show the difference, I cut the cooked roast in half and left one un-pressed and pressed the other by putting a second sheet pan over the top and topping with a heavy Dutch oven filled with some water. That whole set up is then placed in the refrigerator overnight. This step is not totally necessary but I wanted to show the difference. Once the meat is hot, you really can’t see the fat and as a bonus, fat tastes good. So this is your choice here.
- There should be about 6 quarts of liquid left in the pot and this will be flavored now with the spice bag.
- Lay out a double layer of cheese cloth and fill with peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, all spice berries, fresh ginger, cinnamon stick and pepper flakes. Pull up sides and tie with butchers twine. (Alternately, you can just use a commercial pickling spice mix).
- Bring the pot back to a boil and place the spice bag into the pot. Boil for ten minutes, then remove and discard the spice bag. It has served its purpose.
- To avoid over cooked vegetables, I actually took the time and effort here to cook each vegetable separate so that I could give you the exact time that each vegetable takes to be perfectly cooked but not over cooked. You of course won’t be doing that, unless you want to of course, so just use this as a timing guide. Below I list each vegetable with how to prepare and the exact time to cook.
- Bring the 8 quart pot with the now flavored liquid to a boil to start cooking the vegetables. Based on the timing below, you can place vegetables in the order of the length of time they take to cook, ending with the vegetable that takes the least time to cook. I list each below.
- Cabbage: Cut the end off the cabbage but do not core. We leave the core attached so that the cooked cabbage stays in wedges without falling apart. Remove any discolored outer leaves and cut the cabbage in half through the center of the core. Then cut each half in half keeping the core intact for each piece. Finally cut each quarter in half again keeping core attached to each wedge. Place in boiling liquid. The liquid will take about eight minutes to come back to a boil and only about four or five additional minutes to cook.
- Potatoes: Peel the potatoes and cut in quarters if large or thirds or halves if small. Place in boiling liquid. The liquid will take two minutes to come back to a boil and 15 minutes to cook.
- Onions: Cut top and bottom off and peel but leave whole. If you cut them, they fall apart and are hard to fish out after. Place in boiling liquid and cook for 25 minutes including the time it takes to come back to a boil.
- Parsnips: Cut off ends and cut on the bias into uniform sized pieces. They should be large enough to be more than a mouthful but not left whole. Place in boiling liquid and cook about 8 minutes including time to come back to a boil.
- Turnip: Cut off both ends and peel completely down to white or yellow meat. Make sure all skin and green inner lining is peeled off. Cut into 2-3 inch chunks and place into boiling liquid. Cook for 15-18 minutes including time to come back to a boil.
- Yellow or orange beets (not red): Peel and quarter. Place in boiling water and cook for 15 minutes including time to come back to a boil.
- Carrots: Peel, cut ends off and cut into similar size and shape as parsnips. Place in boiling water and cook for ten minutes including time for liquid to come back to a boil.
- If cooking all vegetables in the same pot, the order would be as follows: onions, potatoes, turnip, beets, cabbage, carrots and parsnips, letting each cook for a bit before adding the next. I prefer cooking each separately, but only because I am very finicky about over cooked vegetables and I like serving them separate to give dinner guests or family the chance to select what they want.
- At this point, you can refrigerate everything including the rest of the liquid and get back at it just before dinner that day or the next day. There should be two quarts of liquid left. If you have less, just add enough water to bring it back to two quarts.
- About an hour before dinner is to be served, place each cooked vegetable in a large roasting pan or similar type of vessel.
- Heat the 2 quarts of liquid and pour half over the vegetables. Cover the top of the roasting pan with a lid, an inverted sheet pan or foil and place over two burners. Bring the heat to a medium flame with both burners and gently heat the vegetables back up. This will take 15-20 minutes to heat them through. Keep covered so no moisture escapes.
- Here is another great tip. By now you were probably wondering what the corn starch was for. Basically we are going to make a glaze to heat the meat and serve over the vegetables as they are served. The glaze gives everything a nice tasty glisten and is great to sop up with bread.
- Mix the corn starch with a few drops of water to form a slurry and add it the remaining quart of hot stock. Heat and stir until thickened to a light syrupy consistency.
- Place the cold corned beef on your cutting board and remove any visible fat. Slice in thick slices against the grain.
- Place a large skillet, fry pan or cast iron skillet over a burner and place in sliced corned beef along with half the thickened liquid and turn on the burner. Cover and heat over medium until just hot.
- Finally to serve (bet you thought we would never get there), place hot meat and vegetables on each dinner plate and spoon a little of the remaining hot thickened liquid over each. If serving family style, transfer meat and vegetables to a platter and spoon or brush the tops with the glaze.
- Serve with nice crusty bread or a hearty rye. By the way, this meal lends itself to great leftovers.
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