Fiction-Food Café

March 14, 2018

New England Boiled Dinner | The Evil Wizard Smallbone

          Corned beef and cabbage! Also known as a New England boiled dinner in parts of New England in the US (though some people use ham instead of beef) brought about via Irish immigrants in the 1800s. Which is fitting for the story The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman because it has a flavor of Irish folklore mixed with a bit of this and that lore as well. ;)
          I read this book at the end of January and really, really enjoyed it. It was so atmospheric and cozy and interesting, with a great voice, and even now it comes to my mind and I'd like to revisit it.

     Smallbone sat in the rocker and got out his pipe. “Behind that door is a larder. Pull out some potatoes, some onions and carrots, and a head of cabbage, and I’ll tell you how to make a New England boiled dinner.” 
     Nick wanted to tell Smallbone what he could do with his New England boiled dinner, but the spider episode was fresh in his mind, and he was hungry. Under Smallbone’s direction, he peeled and chopped, filled a big pot with water, and put it on the stove to heat. Then he opened the refrigerator to get out the corned beef and saw a large glass jar full of round white things floating in a cloudy liquid.
     His stomach lurched. 
     “What’s that? Eyeballs?” 
     “Pickled eggs,” Smallbone said. “The eyeballs’re in the freezer. I wouldn’t eat what’s in the striped bowl, either, unless you got a taste for beetles. And don't touch that package there. That's powdered frog."
     Nick found the corned beef and put it in the pot, then made sandwiches with the pickled eggs and mayo while Smallbone smoked and commented on his progress."
. . . .
     They ate the New England boiled dinner. Smallbone grumbled at the overcooked cabbage and made lavish use of the mustard, but he didn’t turn Nick into anything. 
–– The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman

          Aside from New England boiled dinner and pickled egg sandwiches (which I'm going to make at some point! be prepared!), many yummy breakfasts of eggs and bacon are mentioned as well as fried sausages and baked beans, eggs and hash, porridge, clam chowder, roast chicken, spaghetti with homemade sauce, bottles of Moxie soda, sausage, onion, and sage scrapple, chipped beef, oatmeal, fried mackerel and peas and mashed potatoes, flapjacks with wild-blueberry syrup! A drink mentioned that stood out to me was hot chocolate with cinnamon and sage, which I posted a quick recipe for over on instagram. :)

New England Boiled Dinner

~3 lbs. Corned Beef (I used Point Cut)
1 1/2 Cup Apple Juice
Spice Packet that comes with the meat OR 2 Tbsp. Pickling Spice
3-4 lrg. Carrots, peeled
3 med. Potatoes, peeled
2 lrg. Onions
1/2 sm. Green Cabbage, outer leaves removed
Mustard of choice

Place the meat fat-side-up in a large pot & pour in the apple juice & then cover with cool water. Sprinkle in the spices & bring to a rolling boil for about 3 minutes, skimming off any foam. Lower the heat to a simmer & cover. Cook for about 2 1/2 hours (~50 mins per pound of meat).

In the meantime, peel & cut the vegetables. Cut the carrots into about 2" long pieces, the potatoes & onions into 1/6ths, and the 1/2 head of cabbage into 1/8ths. (Feel free to add other vegetables like parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, etc.!)

Remove the meat to a serving dish & cover to keep warm. Plop the vegetables into the pot & bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer & cover. Cook for about 20-30 minutes or until tender. Remove the veggies with a slotted spoon & put them into the dish with the meat.

Cut the meat into thin slices with a large, sharp, non-serrated knife. When cutting the meat, make sure you cut ACROSS the grain of the meat (the "grain" is the lines in the meat), not with it. Serve with your favorite mustard.

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