Saturday, March 20, 2010

To Corn Beef--Part 2

As I said, before, YEEHAW! Folks (excuse me, y’all), get ready. I’m moving to Dallas, Texas. Life is full of surprises, and this move is one of them. But as I come to understand the reality of the situation and the craziness and uncertainty of the match, I am getting very excited. I matched to the biggest OB/GYN residency program in the country, University of Texas, Southwestern. With lots of residents come lots of babies and lots of sick mommies. In fact, at Parkland hospital where we do almost all of our work, there are an average of 16,000 babies delivered a year! 16,000! Most large hospitals average around 3000 to 4000.

When I was looking for a residency, I wanted to go somewhere warm (I am a
winter hater TO THE CORE), and I desperately wanted to work somewhere where I could take care of underserved Spanish-speaking women (ay si, senora!). As my mother told me yesterday, “This is where you were meant to be. You went to medical school to work with those that are often overlooked. You are going to be the doctor that you always dreamed about becoming.”

I don’t know if they eat corned beef in Texas, but I do know that they worship the un-cured cow meat there. I hope that my carnivorous habits, love of sausage making and new interest in meat curing will make me lots of friends. Look forward to lots of barbeque tips! I think barbeque ties in perfectly well with what I was originally going to talk about today, which was the question, “is sodium nitrite toxic”?

Sodium nitrite is rapidly converted to nitrous oxide when added to curing solutions. Nitrous oxide reacts with amino acids present in meat to form potentially cancer causing agents called nitrosamines; the formation of these compounds is accelerated by the heating of meat, particularly in high temperature situations like grilling [1]. It was discovered that adding vitamin C derivatives to nitrite-cured foods reduced the nitrosamine concentration. Now foods are required by the FDA to have anti-oxidants added to them. In a recent excellent review by the Journal of Food science, authors discuss toxicity of nitrated foods, and how addition of citrus compounds to these foods could potentially reduce nitrosamine concentrations [2].

My solution to neutralizing the nitrated corned beef, in the form of a rich corned beef hash, was to make a bright and tangy, vitamin C rich citrus salad. The citrus salad is a variety of pink to orange fruits dissected and bathed in simple syrup infused with ginger and rosemary. The rosemary adds an herbal earthiness while the ginger adds the slightest pungent kick. The corned beef hash contains not only potatoes, onions and meat, but also sweet potatoes and red and green peppers. It was the perfect treat for my perfect friends, who I am so proud of for all of their amazing residency matches. I love you ladies, and I can’t wait for us to become the best doctors in America!

Corned beef hash
2 cups corned beef, cubed
2-3 medium potatoes
1 medium sweet potato
½ green bell pepper diced
½ red bell pepper diced
1 medium onion diced
1 tsp salt
1 cup cooking liquid from corned beef
½ tsp ground marjoram
1 tsp butter
1 tsp vegetable oil

In a 400 degree oven, bake potatoes for 45 minutes or until easily pierced with knife. Peel and dice. Keep oven on. In large pan, heat oil on medium heat, add onion, salt and peppers, cook until soft about 15 minutes. Add potatoes to pan, cook until potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. Add corned beef and cooking liquid. Heat through, about 5 minutes. Add mixture to casserole dish, bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until brown and bubbly on top. Serve with eggs, cooked to order.

Citrus salad (serves 3, I made a batch about 3 times the size)
1 ruby red grapefruit
3 clementines
1 navel orange
1 blood orange
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
½ sprig rosemary
1 inch ginger root grated
1 tbsp honey
Zest of orange
Section citrus. To cut up grapefruit, peel with knife, including the pith. Cut the sections vertically between the fibrous stuff. Cut clementines, oranges and blood oranges. To make syrup, boil water, sugar, honey, rosemary, zest and ginger. Reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Strain on top of fruit, refrigerate overnight.

1. Lijinsky, W. “N-Nitroso compounds in the diet.” Mutation Research/Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis, v. 443 issue 1-2, 1999, p. 129-38.
2. Viuda-Martos, M., et al. “Citrus co-products as technological strategy to reduce residual nitrite content in meat products.” Journal of Food Science, v. 74 issue 8, 2009, p. R93-R100.


  1. So your response is simply to eat vitamin c along with your corned beef? wouldn't simply making vitamin c a part of your regular diet obviate concern over eating nitrite cured foods?

  2. Ruhlman, Thank you for reading. I appreciate the challenge. I guess I should clarify. I really over-simplified the topic. When reading the paper published by Viuda, the studies looked more at adding citrus compounds to the meat when the curing process began. It showed that citrus by-products reduced the amount of nitrosamine compounds over days. I think the more important point to make is that it is important to eat things like nitrated meats in moderation and enjoy them for special occasions.

  3. When reading this study, it also shows that the nitrite and vitamin C react immediately when added together because of its antioxidant properties. Thus, having vitamin C products in the curing products themselves can reduce the amount of harmful nitrosamines, although I honestly cannot find any evidence about a vitamin C diet and reduction in harmful effects of nitrite-cured foods.

  4. Congratulations on your match! You will learn more than you can possibly imagine and what a great place to do it. Best wishes and I sure hope you continue to cook even after you start work. I enjoy your blog (a Ruhlman fan from way back) and look forward to reading more. RuralObGyn

  5. Rural ObGyn, Thanks for your kind words! They help a lot. I'm scared but excited. I hope to keep cooking and writing because it is keeping me sane.

  6. I live in Dallas - and Southwestern has an EXCELLENT reputation for great doctors.

    Some advice: 1. By Secret clinical strength antiperspirant - you'll need it in August when we hit 100 degrees. 2. Get your car windows tinted as darkly as is legal. You should probably do it down here once you get here so they are done to Texas legal requirements (you can get it ticket if you get them too dark.)
    3. If you want to know anything about neighborhoods in Dallas send me an email at
    4. Buy all your shoes here at the Preston Center DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse). It's a huge store, with great quality brands, and you'll pay 30% or more less than in the dept stores. PLUS it's fast because you walk up and down the aisles picking up and trying on what you like instead of waiting for someone to go get them for you to try as in dept stores.