Sunday, March 16, 2014

Corned Beef (but no green beer) and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, and you know what that means! Besides green beer, that is. That’s right – corned beef. I thought I’d throw out some different ways of using it. Remember that I’m not including potatoes in my recipes or menus, which is why you won’t see them here.

But first, the specials. I was surprised to find that only Kroger has corned beef on sale. The veggies that traditionally go with it – carrots, onions, potatoes, and cabbage – are on sale some places, but not the corned beef itself. Or, at least, not at what I consider a real sale price. Marsh and Aldi both had it for $1.99 last week, but their “sale” prices are higher this week.

Kroger has corned beef points for $1.99 a pound, or flat cut for $2.99 a pound. Boneless chicken breasts are $1.89 a pound. Large eggs are $1.50 a dozen, which, I’m very sorry to say, seems to be a good price these days. I keep waiting for them to go down now that it’s almost Spring. Sour cream and cottage cheese are both three 16-ounce cartons for $4.00, or $1.33 each. Roma tomatoes are 99 cents a pound and whole cantaloupe are two for $3.00, or $1.50 each. These prices are good through next Wednesday, March 19.

As usual, Aldi has some great deals on produce. Baby carrots are 69 cents a pound. Mushrooms are 99 cents for an 8-ounce box. Red potatoes are 99 cents for a 5-pound bag, or 20 cents a pound. Onions are 79 cents for a 3-pound bag, or 27 cents a pound. (That’s the lowest price I can remember seeing in a long time.) Cabbage is 79 cents a head, which probably comes out to around 40 cents a pound, depending on the size of the heads. Could be 50 cents a pound, could be 20 cents. Salad mixes are 69 cents for a 12-ounce bag. Corned beef is $3.49 a pound for flat cut brisket. These prices are good through next Tuesday, March 18.

IGA has corned beef for $3.47 a pound. Idaho potatoes (russets, not red potatoes) are $1.47 for a 5-pound bag, or 30 cents a pound. Ham sausage is $2.77 for a 1-pound roll. Roma tomatoes are 97 cents a pound. Sirloin pork chops are 97 cents a pound in family packs. (See my column from a couple of weeks ago for ways to cook pork chops.) A lot of other pork cuts are on sale, too.

Marsh has corned beef rounds for $2.99 a pound or corned beef briskets for $3.49 a pound. Cabbage is 19 cents a pound.

In case you’re wondering about all the different kinds of corned beef this week, here’s a quick run-down on them.  Figure on about half as much cooked as you started with raw. So to get a pound of cooked corned beef, you’ll have to buy two pounds raw. To get twelve ounces cooked, you’ll need a pound and a half (24 ounces) raw.

Both red potatoes and Idaho potatoes are on sale this week. Either one can be used when making a corned beef dinner, though the red ones are more traditional.

Here are some things to do with corned beef, in addition to the traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage (or, more accurately, Corned Beef and Vegetables, since other vegetables are almost always included). You can use leftover corned beef in them, or you can cook up a chunk of corned beef special to use in these recipes. And don’t forget corned beef sandwiches. Corned beef on rye, with Swiss cheese and mustard. Or a Rueben sandwich, with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. If you’re planning on leftovers, remember that there’s a lot of shrinkage. You’ll need to start with twice as much as you need cooked.

CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE SAUTE is sort of a corned beef and cabbage stir-fry. Sort of. With the larger quantities of vegetables, a batch of this will cost about $4.95 for the meat and veggies, and probably another 25 cents or so for the other ingredients, or about $5.30 total. I just make a meal of it, but you could add some of the cantaloupe that’s on sale if you wanted to, and still keep it to $6.00 for four people, or $1.50 per person.

I didn’t realize until I started working on this column that I don’t really use recipes when it comes to corned beef. I get ideas for things to do with the corned beef, but then I just go my merry way. Corned Beef and Cabbage Saute, above, is one example. CORNED BEEF OMELET is another one. For that matter, so is cooking the corned beef to begin with. Think of the following recipe as just a basic idea, and then use whatever you have on hand and like. I’ve never tried it, but sautéing some leftover Brussels sprouts with the corned beef and onions sounds pretty good to me. So does adding a good squirt or spoonful of spicy mustard. Or maybe some Thousand Island salad dressing, like in Reuben sandwich. Or whatever. Use your imagination.

When I make “omelets” I usually either make a scramble or I pour the eggs on top of the filling and cook it that way. Sort of like a frittata except I don’t broil it. I’m too lazy to bother with cooking the filling, then setting it aside while I cook the eggs, then putting the filling on the omelet and folding it. Suit yourself. It tastes the same either way. Making it into a scramble (cooking the filling, then adding the eggs and scrambling it all together) or making it into a frittata sort of thing (I need to come up with a name for this – how about a flat omelet) works better when you’re cooking for more than one or two people, because you’re not supposed to make an omelet for more than two people; you’re supposed to make separate omelets and that’s a hassle for everyone. So I’m going to skip the omelet bit and give directions for making a scramble or a flat omelet. Turning it all into a quiche would work, too, come to think of it. I’ll give directions for that, too. It’s all pretty much the same.

The CORNED BEEF SCRAMBLE and the FLAT CORNED BEEF OMELET both run about $3.90 if you use half and half, less if you use milk and more if you use heavy cream. It makes enough to serve four people for breakfast and maybe for lunch, but you’ll want to have something else to go with it if you’re having it for supper. Or at least I would. Coleslaw would go well with it, and with the cabbage and onions on sale you could make a big bowl of it for under a dollar. You’d still be able to get in some cantaloupe to go with it and keep it under $6.00 for four people, or $1.50 per person. With the extra cream and cheese, a CORNED BEEF QUICHE will cost about $6.00, but will make six generous servings, so it still comes out to about $1.00 per person.

I’ve never made CREAM OF REUBEN SOUP, but if I were to make it I would change the recipe quite a bit. I hesitate to give you my version, though, when I’ve never tried it. So I’m giving you both recipes. I can hardly believe I’m saying this, since I basically believe you can never have too much cream or butter, but it sounds too rich for me.

My version of the recipe, using cabbage instead of sauerkraut (just because cabbage is on sale and I don’t know how much sauerkraut costs), comes to about $3.65 and makes about eight cups. A pound of baby carrots and a pound of sliced Roma tomatoes, with some Thousand Island dressing for dipping them in, would go well with the soup and would keep the total cost under $6.00, or $1.50 per person.

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