I was raised outside of Boston, Mass. where St. Paddy’s Day is reason to celebrate like nobody’s business and a big corned beef and cabbage dinner is expected, without discussion.
Corned beef still pulses through my veins, but I have to admit, I’ve started picking at the traditional boiled dinner. I love the corned beef—but I’m ok with smaller doses, and those vegetables are looking pretty boring. More accurately, it’s the spicy cooking broth I’m after—that’s where all the flavor and nutrients go.
Then it hit me. This year, instead of hunks of meat, cabbage, potatoes, onions and carrots, why not scale down to a stylized soup? OMG, what a sacrilegious thought… Is it wrong to shirk tradition? Well, how about a small adjustment? No problem, I was game.
I started by ensuring the corned beef and the soup stock it yielded were not left to chance: I precooked the corned beef with onion, garlic and my private selection of special spices: cloves are key, as are coriander and mustard seed, dried chile pepper, peppercorns and bay leaf.
Once the beef was tender, it was cooled and chilled. The stock was strained and sampled: was it too salty, did it have enough flavor? It needed nothing but chilling time to remove any excess fat.
The next day I was on a roll and again, bucked tradition: into the soup pot went spunky kale rather than worn out cabbage. I piled in plenty of sweet root vegetables like carrots and turnip, along with good ole potato, onion, and more garlic plus a bit of tomato and green pepper for good luck. The luscious soup stock was added along with a handful of barley, another bay leaf, and a sprinkling of thyme.
The soup needs to simmer for about an hour—or 22 minutes in pressure cooker. Once the barley is cooked, the tender corned beef pieces are added to the soup and it can wait for 20-30 minutes.
There is so much going on with this soup, it needs nothing more. No horseradish, no lively snips or squiggles required. Seriously.
St Paddy’s Soup: Corned Beef, Kale, Root Vegetables and Barley
- 2 lbs (or more!) uncooked corned beef (I used lean round)
- 1 onion, divided
- 1 clove garlic, slivers
- Pickling spice: ½ tsp coriander seed, ½ tsp mustard seed, 8 cloves, 12 peppercorns, 1 hot dried chile pepper seed and mince, 2 bay leaves (divided)
- 6 cups water
- 2 carrots, peel, cut into small chunks
- 3 red or 1 baking potato, part peeled, chop into bite-sized chunks
- 1 turnip, peel, cut into small chunks
- ½ poblano or similar pepper, seed & chop
- 1 Roma tomato, seed & chop
- 1 small head kale, trim center veins, chop
- 1/3 cup barley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ tsp thyme
Cook the corned beef ahead: trim and rinse the beef and place in soup pot or liner of multi-cooker along with ½ onion and garlic. Add the spices and 1 bay leaf. Cover with water and simmer according to package instruction. If using multi cooker, bring to Hi Pressure and cook for 70 minutes. Wait 10 minutes and slowly release pressure.
Remove corned beef from pot and allow to cool; cover and chill if not using soon. Strain the broth, let cool; if time permits chill and skim off congealed fat.
When ready to prepare soup, cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and place in soup pot. Taste the corned beef stock, if very salty dilute with water, the potato will absorb some of the salt. Measure in 6 cups stock. Add the barley, thyme and fresh bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook for 40 minutes. If using multi-cooker, set timer for 22 minutes. When complete, disconnect, let stand 10 minutes, then slowly release pressure.
Add 1-1/2 cups of corned beef cut into bite-sized chunks and gently heat. Adjust seasoning and serve. Serves: 8.