Certain dishes remain locked up as seasonal holiday preparations when they could easily be unleashed to enjoy any time of the year.  Some examples include goose or prime rib for Christmas, lamb or ham for Easter and corned beef, the centerpiece of a New England boiled dinner, traditionally served on St. Patrick’s Day. But these are wonderful whenever you want to have them.

That’s what I thought when on a recent weekend I was at Bisson’s, the Topsham butcher, and spied their corned beef, which is in the meat case year-round.  It’s a great cut of beef, prepared traditionally–with the dividend of leftovers in sandwiches or corned beef hash.

Bisson’s corned beef wrapped and ready brined with salt, sugar, and pickling spices

Bisson’s corns the beef with sodium nitrate (salt) and pickling spices as opposed to other butchers who do a gray roast without the salt cure. I prefer the salt-cured version.   The flavor is intense, sweet with spices and pungent with curing salt.

At this time of year we have a wealth of root vegetables–so available at farmers’ markets now and throughout the winter–to use in the boiled dinner. My vegetable stash included a mix of orange, yellow and purple carrots; yellow-fleshed potatoes; sweet onions; green cabbage and red and gold beets.  Turnips (yellow or white) and parsnips are good additions, too, and available locally.

Variouis guises of the corned beef presentation

At the last minute I decided to include  Erin French’s parsley dumplings, which are featured in her wonderful book, “Lost Kitchen” and added them to the simmering pot for the last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking.  As a side note, I’ve made several recipes from her new book and will feature them at another time in my book review.

A few cooking notes are in order on how to prepare the corned beef. Put the beef in a stock pot and fill with water to cover by about 2 inches.  With the cover ajar, bring the water to the boil then lower the heat to a lively simmer, skimming off any scum that rises to the top. Add a few carrots, an onion, bay leaf and thyme and a few stalks of celery (aromatics).  Adjust the cooking temperature to stabilize the liquid to a slow simmer.  Cover the pot and cook for 2 to 4 hours, depending on the size of the meat. Periodically check the cooking temperature to maintain a steady gentle simmer. Mine was done in 3 hours for a 4-pound roast.

Use the leftover vegetables to prepare the hash

Remove the beef to a plate and moisten with some of the cooking liquid.  Cover well.  I like to glaze the meat with mustard, brown sugar and a touch of honey and put in the oven to set the glaze and reheat the beef.

Corned Beef Dinner

Serving Size: 4 to 6

Corned Beef Dinner


  • 4-pound corned beef
  • Aromatics: onion, studded with 2 cloves; 2 celery stalks and 1 large or several small carrots, scraped or peeled
  • 6-8 or more {depending on size) potatoes, peeled; if small leave whole if larger cut in half
  • 6 to 8 multi-colored carrots, peeled and left whole if small or cut in half
  • 3 to 4 beets, cooked separately, and quartered
  • 1 small head cabbage, cut in quarters
  • Boiling onions, optional
  • Bay leaf, thyme, parsley, to taste


  1. Put the beef in a large stock pot and cover with water by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil and add the aromatics; lower the heat to low and stabilize the cooking water to a steady slow simmer; cover the pot. Cook for 2 to 4 hours, depending on size of roast.
  2. When done, remove the beef to a sheet pan or medium casserole. Moisten with some of the cooking liquid. Cover with foil until ready to glaze in the oven.
  3. Meanwhile add the prepared root vegetables and bring the water back to a lively simmer. Cover the pot, leaving lid ajar. After 10 minutes add the cabbage. Cook until vegetables are cooked but still slightly firm.
  4. Meanwhile cook the beets in a separate pot until tender. Peel under cold water. Cut ion quarters. Set aside.
  5. If making dumplings: combine 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder,1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar, ½ cup milk and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, mixing well. Drop by large tablespoons into simmering water along with vegetables. Cover pot and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until dumplings are set.
  6. If glazing, mix 3 to 4 tablespoons mustard with 3 to 4 tablespoons light brown sugar and a few drops of honey. Brush the roast with this and put into a 375-degree oven for about 15 minutes to heat through and set the glaze. If not glazing put the meat back into the pot to reheat.
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