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Many cooks think of this time of year as pumpkin season, anticipating the wonderful pumpkin pies -- or pumpkin quick breads or pumpkin puddings -- they'll be making for the holidays ahead. Some more adventurous souls may also dare to imagine creating savory pumpkin dishes, usually in the form of the creamy pureed soups or squash-filled pastas that have become so popular in recent years, not least in my own restaurants!
But I would like to suggest you get even more creative with your savory pumpkin cookery. Pumpkin and its other hard-shelled, so-called winter squash cousins are, after all, members of the "vegetable-fruit" family, and at this time of year they deserve to play at least as big a role in appetizers, main courses, and side dishes as they do in desserts and baked goods.
So, this week and next I would like to share with you two of my favorite savory recipes featuring pumpkin. I hope they will start you thinking of even more ways to make creative use of this autumn staple.
Let me intrigue you first with a main dish that gets its distinctive character from that ingredient: Austrian-Style Boiled Beef with Pickled Pumpkin. It's a recipe inspired by a dish I was served by renowned chef Heinz Reitbauer of Steirereck restaurant in Vienna. His establishment's name refers to the fact that his parents, and the style of cooking he grew up with, come from the central Austrian region of Styria. Pumpkins are a staple there. So is pumpkin seed oil, a rich-tasting, emerald-green extract that you can find today in specialty food shops.
This country-style Austrian-Style Boiled Beef with Pickled Pumpkin recipe is ideal for a casual autumn dinner party. I suggest you serve it at that kind of gathering largely because, although easy to make, it does call for some advance preparation. The pumpkin (actually, acorn or kabocha squash, which have better flavor and texture than most varieties of Halloween-style pumpkins you'll find in the market) needs to be cooked and then refrigerated in its honey-sweetened vinegar brine at least three days ahead. You can also, if you like, poach the beef the day before and refrigerate it in its cooking liquid to keep it moist; then, before serving, slice it, coat with the mustard and breadcrumbs, and brown in the saute pan, cooking the slices a little longer than directed to heat them through.
Be sure to take care when cutting up and peeling the squash. Use a sharp, sturdy knife and a nonslip cutting board. Many markets today sell packages of precut acorn or kabocha squash, which will make the work a bit easier.
Try this recipe soon. Then, enjoy pumpkin and its close cousins in savory dishes all autumn and winter long.
Austrian-Style Boiled Beef With Pickled Pumpkin
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 180 minutes
Yield: Serves 8
Austrian-Style Boiled Beef With Pickled Pumpkin Recipe Ingredients
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
1 small winter squash (kabocha or acorn), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, about 4 cups total
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 onions, peeled and cut in half
3 organic celery stalks, trimmed
3 organic carrots, peeled and trimmed
3 parsnips, peeled and trimmed
2 leeks, ends trimmed, thoroughly rinsed, and cut into 4-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
4 whole allspice berries
3 quarts organic beef broth
3 pounds boneless beef bottom round, rump, or shoulder roast
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley leaves
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Pumpkin seed oil, for garnish
Toasted shelled pumpkin seeds, for garnish
Austrian-Style Boiled Beef With Pickled Pumpkin Recipe Directions
First, at least three days ahead, prepare the Pickled Pumpkin: In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for 1 minute. Add the pumpkin and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes more. Add the vinegar and stir and scrape to deglaze the pan. Add the bay leaf, rosemary, honey, and water. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and simmer just until the squash is al dente, barely tender, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into a sterilized jar, cover, and refrigerate.
About three hours before serving time, prepare the Boiled Beef: In a stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, and leeks and saute just until glossy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice, and broth. Bring to a boil, skimming away the froth that rises to the surface. Add the beef and reduce the heat to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, 2 to 3 hours.
Remove the beef from the stockpot to a cutting board, cover with foil, and leave to rest for 15 minutes. Then, using a sharp carving knife, cut the meat across the grain into slices 1/2 inch thick. Spread a thin layer of mustard on one side of each slice, arranging the slices in a single layer, mustard up, on a baking tray.
On a plate, stir together the breadcrumbs and parsley. Dip the mustard side of the beef slices into the mixture and press down to coat thickly with crumbs. Return the slices to the tray, crumbs up.
Transfer the Pickled Pumpkin to a nonreactive saucepan and gently reheat over medium heat.
Meanwhile, in each of 2 separate medium-sized saute pans, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat. Carefully place the beef slices in the pan, crumb side down, and saute until golden, 30 seconds to 1 minute. With a spatula, carefully turn the slices over and cook just until reheated, 30 seconds to 1 minute longer.
To serve, place a generous spoonful of the heated pumpkin on each heated serving plate. Arrange 2 or 3 slices of beef on top, crumbs up. Drizzle pumpkin seed oil around the beef and sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.
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Austrian-Style Boiled Beef with Pickled Pumpkin
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