I was under the mistaken impression that all Irish people are inherently born with a taste for corned beef. I know I certainly was. I love it straight out of a pot of simmering water with a side of boiled cabbage and potatoes, prepared as breakfast hash under eggs over-medium, or on any sky-high sandwich constructed with rye bread. But, I recently learned that my Irish grandfather had no love at all for corned beef, except under one condition; when prepared as a Reuben. I suppose a little something magical happens when corned beef is paired with a bit of tart sauerkraut, creamy Thousand Island dressing, and melty Swiss cheese.
I’m not a once-a-year St. Patrick’s Day corned beef girl. I’m more of a whenever-the-opportunity-strikes corned beef girl. Over the years, I’ve prepared it a few different ways; boiled, baked, braised and slow-cooked. I love them all equally, but you can’t beat the simplicity of a pot of simmering water and a few hours of maintenance-free cooking time; makes a perfect corned beef every time. I recently looked into brining and curing my own beef brisket, but quickly abandoned the plan when I realized that the process would take weeks to complete. You don’t tell an Irish pregnant lady that she’s got to wait three weeks to enjoy her corned beef. No, you don’t.
I also learned something new about sauerkraut. I’d always assumed that sauerkraut was cabbage mixed with some sort of vinegar, in a sort of pickled way; perhaps a white wine or apple cider vinegar. I would have bet money on it had someone asked me what sauerkraut was made of. But, when I started looking into preparing my own sauerkraut, I quickly discovered that it is nothing more than cabbage and salt; allowed to ferment for a few weeks, until it develops that distinctly sour taste. Once again, after discovering that the process would take weeks to complete, I abandoned the idea and purchased prepared sauerkraut.
For a little variation on our corned beef feast, I decided to prepare Reuben Quesadillas. This simple recipe would make a great use for leftover corned beef or works well for a fresh-out-of-the-pot brisket. As part of our ongoing The Kids Cook Mondays series, my little men joined in on the quesadilla making process. Quesadillas, much like custom pizzas, are a fantastic dinner option for young children to get involved with. It allows them the opportunity to taste-test a variety of ingredients with the flexibility of preparing their very own personalized creations.
To facilitate the quesadilla construction, I organized several bowls of quesadilla fillings including the ingredients for our Reuben Quesadillas, along with some familiar favorites, such as American cheese and mini turkey pepperoni pieces. To add a little simple fun to the kids’ quesadillas, I used a large cookie cutter to cut star-shaped pieces from the flour tortillas. As they worked, I encouraged the kids to taste each of the ingredient options, but allowed them the flexibility to build their custom quesadillas as desired.
How to Prepare a Corned Beef Brisket
Place a corned beef brisket in a large pot. Fill with enough water to cover the brisket. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 3-4 hours, until fork tender. If you wish to serve with cabbage, potatoes, and/or carrots, add the cut potatoes and carrots to the pot during the last 20-25 minutes of cooking time and the cabbage during the last 15 minutes. Remove the corned beef from the water and cut against the grain before serving.
Corned Beef Reuben Quesadillas
- Flour Tortillas
- Corned Beef, thinly sliced and pulled apart into small pieces
- Swiss Cheese, shredded
- Thousand Island Dressing
*To remove excess liquid and prevent soggy quesadillas, place the sauerkraut in a colander set over a bowl and allow it to drain for a few hours prior to using.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place one flour tortilla on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with shredded swiss cheese. Scatter pieces of corned beef and sauerkraut over the cheese. Sprinkle with additional swiss cheese and top with another flour tortilla. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the filling is hot and melty and the tortilla is slightly crisp. Serve with Thousand Island dressing.