Austria

I am a little behind with blog posts, but we cooked food from Austria last Sunday.  Since Australia was fairly simple and we were feeling more motivated than usual,  we cranked up the some Mozart music and started cooking the food of his homeland and made it two days in a row of international cooking!  Austria is another country that I was excited for.  It is the first of the countries that I have been to, and I really enjoyed the German and Austrian food I have eaten during my trips to Europe.  I was very tempted to make wiener schnitzel and spaetzle, but we decided to save those for Germany (which will be around September this year at our current rate).  We also wanted to avoid just recreating foods that we have eaten before.  I found many references to a boiled beef dish called Tafelspitz, which is often served with an apple-horesradish sauce.  We paired this with a pan fried potatoes recipe called Bratkartoffeln.  Much like Australia, the real struggle was narrowing down the list of fantastic looking desserts!  I wanted to avoid anything cake-like after having cashew cake for Aruba and Lamingtons (chocolate coated cake slices) for Australia, so we settled on Apfelstrudel.

Tafelspitz with apple-horesradish sauce (recipe below–we adapted on our own recipe based on various other recipes, descriptions of this dish, and ingredients that were available or in the fridge waiting to be used)

The tafelspitz is essentially a cut of beef boiled in broth with some seasonings.  The beef is slow cooked for about an hour with a a bone/shank, a bunch of root vegetables, peppercorns, bay leaves, and allspice.

Tafelspitz_starting

Most of the recipes we looked at also suggested slicing an onion in half and frying the flat sides on a cast iron skillet.  I didn’t research why they do this, but it must have to do with releasing the magic onion flavors or something.  Anyway, I thought it looked cool.

toasted_onions

We let this boil for about an hour (until the meat was cooked), then removed the veggies and replaced them with more root veggies.  The idea is that the first ones lost most of their flavor to making a broth, and the second batch of vegetables would be the ones we eat with the beef.  It continued simmering until the vegetables were cooked.  The beef is sliced against the grain and served with the vegetables.  Since the cooking liquid is essentially homemade beef broth, we put that in a gallon sized Ziplock bag and chucked in the freezer.  Whenever we need broth for a soup or something, I’m sure it will be delicious.

tafelspitz

It seems to be common to serve tafelspitz with apple-horeseradish sauce and chopped chives (or chive sauce).  We used chopped chives instead of the sauce, but we were both intrigued by the idea of apple horseradish sauce.  It was pretty simple to make–we just chopped an apple and combined it with a small (4 oz.) jar of prepared horseradish sauce.  We blended this in a small food processor until it had a fairly smooth consistency.

Apple-horeradish_sauce

Bratkartoffeln (recipe)

I roughly followed this recipe from food.com.  I’ve eaten similar fried potato dishes in Germany, so it looked relatively authentic to me.  I knew this would test my patience, since you are supposed to let the potatoes sit in the pan for several minutes (without stirring) to get crispy.  I am terrible at leaving food alone… I like to poke and prod my food, whether it is on the stove or leftover on my plate at the end of a meal…

This recipe called for cooking the onions and bacon first until the onions are translucent.  In retrospect, I think I should have given the bacon a head start because it looked pretty raw still when the onions were starting to turn brown.  I also should have used a larger pan.

Bratkartoffeln_onions_bacon

Next the potatoes are added.  I boiled the potatoes earlier in the day until they were mostly cooked but not mushy.  Some people recommend cooking them the day before, but I didn’t even know I would be cooking this the day before.  I put them in the fridge for the afternoon then cut them into thin slices and added them to the pan.  I also added oil–since the bacon wasn’t fully cooked and, therefore, wasn’t emitting much bacon fat liquid to cook the potatoes in.  I wasn’t successful in getting the nice crispy finish I’ve had on similar dishes in Germany.  Although the bottom of the potatoes got crispy, the crispy part stayed behind every time I flipped the potatoes.  As a result, I kept adding oil to keep it from sticking.  In the end, I got some browned potatoes, onions, and bacon, and I scraped the crispies off the bottom of the pan and mixed them in.

Bratkartoffeln_frying

The tafelspitz, sauce, chives, and potatoes made a nice spread of dishes for dinner.

Austrian_dinner_dishes

Of course, this was supplemented with a loaf of crusty bread. 🙂

bread_for_Austria_meal

Apfelstrudel (recipe)

I found a lot of recipes from apfelstruedel, but I loved this blog post with a family recipe and a wonderful explanation of how to make it.  Once I saw the pictures of dough stretched out to fill a table, then rolled up with the tablecloth, I knew we had to make this.

This started with a small ball of dough, which we let sit out for several hours (as with the boiled potatoes, we didn’t plan ahead well enough to make this the day before).

apfelstruedel_dough

Once the rest of the meal was almost ready, we started preparing the apfelstrudel.  I chopped apples and measured the cinnamon, sugar, and bread crumbs, while Tyler worked on the dough.  He put flour out on a clean tablecloth then started rolling out the dough, occasionally spreading melted butter over the dough.  It started pretty small and eventually stretched out to the size of our table!  Then he trimmed off the thick dough around the border… which looked like a surprisingly large percent of the original ball of dough’s volume.

Apfelstreudel_dough_1   Apfelstreudel_dough_2   Apfelstreudel_dough_3   Apfelstreudel_dough_4

I spread the apples, cinnamon, sugar, and bread crumbs (we omitted the raisins, because… yuck.  I may have warmed up to raisins in savory dishes, but I’m keeping them out of dessert as long as possible).  It was super fun to roll up the strudel with the tablecloth.  I took an awesome video of this, but sadly it appears that I can’t uploaded it without paying to upgrade my WordPress account. 😦  So here are a couple snapshots of the process.

Apfelstreudel_pre_rolling

Apfelstreudel_rolling_1   Apfelstreudel_rolling_2

We twisted it into a horseshoe shape and spread some more melted butter on top, then baked it.  YUM.

Apfelstreudel_before_baking   Apfelstreudel_after_baking

The finished meal was wonderful.  I was a little worried that the tafelspitz would be bland, but the flavor really came from the meat.  I liked the flavor the chopped chives added. The apple-horesradish sauce was also very good with this, although it was a very dominant flavor.   I had to make sure I ate a few bites without it to appreciate all of the flavors.  The potatoes were also good, but they weren’t as good as similar dishes I’ve had in Europe.  I had too many problems with them sticking to the pan, and I think they also ended up too oily from all the oil I added to prevent sticking.  They were good with the meal, but I think I will opt for less oily potato cooking method. 🙂

As much as we enjoyed dinner, the apfelstrudel was the clear winner of this meal.  Delicious.  The flaky pastry layers were wonderful, and the apple filling was so wonderfully cinnamony and warm.  I can’t say enough good things about this… we will definitely be making it again!!

Austria_dinner   Apfelstreudel_slice

Tafelspitz Recipe

Prep 10 mins ∙ Cook 4 hrs ∙ Makes 6 ∙ Difficulty Medium

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs beef (we used Bottom Round Roast)
  • 1 beef bone (shanks work)
  • 1 onion
  • 6 carrots
  • 2 turnips
  • 2 leeks
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 1 allspice berry
  • 1 jar horseradish sauce
  • 1 apple, skin removed and chopped

Directions

  1. Separate the carrots, turnips, and leeks (other root vegetables can be substituted) in half.
  2. Cut half of the vegetables in large chunks.
  3. Bring a small pan to a high heat. Cut the onion in half (do not peel it). Place the onion halves on the heat and hold until brown but not charred.
  4. Place the bone in a large stock pot. Put the meat on top of the bone and placed the chopped vegetables and onion halves on top of the meat.
  5. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the vegetables with an extra inch above. Guess if the vegetables start floating.
  6. Bring the pot to a boil. While the water is heating up add all spices except the salt.
  7. Once the water is boiling, reduce to an uncovered simmer for 1 hour.
  8. Add salt to taste, about a tablespoon. Resume simmering until the meat is tender, about 2 to 2.5 hours. Refresh water as necessary.
  9. Once the meat can be easily stabbed with a fork, remove meat, bone, and vegetables. Save the water but discard the vegetables and bone (they have no more flavor). Put the meat back in the water.
  10. Chop the reserved vegetables in whatever manner you want to eat them. Add them to the broth. Simmer for 1 hour or until the vegetables are at desired tenderness.
  11. While vegetables are in the water, combine horseradish sauce and diced apple in a food processor. Use the amount of apple that seems appropriate. Blend the two until the sauce is smooth.
  12. When vegetables are done, remove the beef and slice thinly against the grain. Vegetables can be removed and served along the beef or kept in the broth and eaten as a soup. If serving the vegetables as a side, keep the broth for later use.

Notes

This meal sounds bland but the boiling process adds wonderful flavor to the meat. This meal is the rare sort where the flavor comes from the meat and not the spices on the meat.

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