Austria! Kaffe mit Schlag, Wiener Schnitzel! Mozart! The Sound of Music! Alps! Yet another Ottoman siege!
When Austria came up in the random generator, I immediately emailed my friends Marcus and Theresa. Not only did they live in Vienna for a long time, but they also have foodie cred; I knew they would have excellent suggestions for our Austrian meal. Had I not had such faith in them, I might have been suspicious when they both recommended that we try Tafelspitz, a most unappetizing-sounding recipe consisting of beef boiled for many hours with root vegetables. "It's better than it sounds," they said. So, optimistically, I tried it.
And it was wonderful. Who knew that anything boiled could taste so delicious? (Emperor Franz Josef, apparently - this dish was said to be his favorite lunch.)
At Marcus' suggestion, we at the Tafelspitz with a cabbage salad and some fried potatoes.
Note: the original recipe called for only half a leek. But which half? The green half? The white half? Half of the whole thing, sliced down the middle? It didn't say, so I just threw in a whole one, and the result was not overly leeky.
(Adapted from The Culinary Heritage of Austria and All Along the Danube)
In a large pot, put:
1 upper rump cut of beef (aka tri-tip) (size doesn't matter)
15 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 whole allspice
Cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until meat is almost cooked. Skim off scum as it rises to the surface.
Heat in a frying pan:
2-4 T oil or butter
Add, cut side down:
2 onions, not skinned, cut in half
Cook until onions are very brown, almost black.
Add onions to pot with beef, together with:
6-8 root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, celery root, etc.), roughly chopped
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1 leek, well washed to get the sand out, roughly chopped
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until beef is very soft and all flavor has been extracted from the vegetables. Remove beef from pot.
Strain broth through a fine sieve or cheesecloth, pressing vegetables with the back of a large spoon to get all the tastiness out. Discard vegetables. (The dogs loved them.)
Slice the beef, put on a serving platter, and pour enough of the broth over it to make it nice and moist. Serve with horseradish applesauce on the side.
(Adapted from All Along the Danube)
2 c unsweetened applesauce
1/2 to 1 c prepared horseradish (with or without beets)
1 t prepared mustard (such as Dijon or whole-grain)
Salt and pepper to taste
The horseradish can be hot or mild—whatever you like.
1/2 c heavy cream
a light grating of nutmeg
(Incidentally, applesauce could not possibly be easier to make, and it's a great way to use up those wrinkly apples at the bottom of the crisper drawer in the fridge. Just peel (if you want) and core the apples, hack them to pieces, and toss into a pot. Cook at a medium temperature until done. Mash while it's cooking, if you like, with a potato masher or spoon. There. That's it.)
(Adapted from The Best of Austrian Cuisine)
Remove the core, and shred:
1 small head white or red cabbage
Place the cabbage in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Meanwhile, mix together:
1/3 c oil (use whatever kind you like best. I used some walnut oil because I happened to have it, and it was delicious.)
1/4 c cider vinegar (or white vinegar, for a sharper taste)
1 t prepared mustard (such as Dijon or whole grain)
1 t caraway seeds
Drain water from cabbage and squeeze it lightly to get most of the water out. Don't crush the cabbage. It should be softened, but not limp. Toss cabbage and dressing together.
The following recipe is copied verbatim from The Best of Austrian Cooking, because it is charming just the way it is:
Boiled Sliced Potatoes Fried (Erdäpfelschmarren)
1 lb potatoes
1 oz. fat (1 tablespoon)
The cooked and peeled potatoes are sliced and fried in hot fat, in which you can first fry some chopped onions.
The Best of Austrian Cuisine, by Elisabeth Mayer-Browne. 1997, Hippocrene Books, New York. (Originally published in 1960.)
All Along the Danube, by Marina Polvay. Expanded edition, 2002, Hippocrene Books, New York. (Originally published in 1979.)
The Culinary Heritage of Austria, ed. E. Plachutta and Ch. Wagner. 2003, Perlen Reihe