Cooking corned beef the Joe Rossi way on St. Patrick’s Day
March 13, 2014
Steamboat Springs — There's only one service organization in Steamboat Springs that cooks 240 pounds of corned beef once a year, every year and that is the Knights of Columbus.
And only the Knights of Columbus Council 4462 at Holy Name Parish has access to the secret recipe belonging to the late Joe Rossi that includes cooking the big, brined briskets for 6 1/2 hours in large copper kettles.
You can taste the difference at 5 p.m. Monday, on St. Patrick's Day, in the basement of Holy Name Catholic Church, 524 Oak St., in downtown Steamboat Springs. Admission is by donation.
Joe Rossi started the corned beef, potato and cabbage tradition at Holy Name 55 years ago. He handed off the cooking duties to Bob Litzau and Bob Brown about 25 years ago, a duty they continue to share.
Litzau isn't shy about saying the local Knights' corned beef is the best he's ever tasted and added that the secret is in the slow cooking as much as it is in the spice mixture that is added to the broth.
"Part of it is we use large briskets, not like the 1- or 2-pound briskets you get at the store. We buy 12 to 14 18- to 22-pound briskets, which allows us to cook them for a long time," Litzau said.
Litzau and Brown drop the briskets in simmering water at 8:30 a.m. every St. Patrick's Day and don't remove them until 3 p.m. The reason they can simmer that long without turning to mush, Litzau said, is that the cooking is done in large copper pots that hold even heat all the way to the top of their rims. That allows the meat to cook at a lower burner temperature.
After the water is drained from the cooked briskets, the 100 pounds of potatoes and 100 pounds of cabbage are finished in the broth.
Litzau has attempted to prepare corned beef the Rossi way at home without the same success.
"I've tried the exact same recipe at home, and it doesn't work," Litzau said.
Fortunately, Rossi will be at Monday's event in spirit.
Litzau explained that Rossi had a favorite chef's knife he only brought out once a year, to carve the corned beef at Holy Name.
"Joe's wife gave it to me after he passed away," Litzau said. "I've never considered it my knife, but I bring it out every year on St. Patrick's Day. From my standpoint, it brings him there, so he's there every year."
Grand Knight Kevin Nerney said the funds raised by the dinner are used to support a variety of community charities, including supporting Special Olympics bowling at Snow Bowl, the pregnancy resource center now known as SELAH and Father Tom's Good Shepherd Program, which helps financially challenged local families with rent and utilities.
The Knights raised $2,615 last year, and the record number of meals served was 350 in 2011.
Litzau said the annual dinner has become more a community event than a fundraiser. People spend 30 minutes eating and stay three hours to talk and to recall the memory of Rossi.
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