Emperor Franz Joseph has many claims to fame, not least the establishment of the Austro-Hungarian empire. But he seems to have been a bit of a famous eater, judging by the number of traditional dishes associated with him. Like Tafelspitz.
- Boiled beef, but from a fine cut
- Typically eaten with apple sauce & horseradish
- Considered a rather refined dish
- See also:
What is Tafelspitz?
(The beef still in its broth)
Amusingly, the food much loved by Emperor Franz Joseph lacked complexity or finesse, with the decoration and sophistication left to the tableware and napkins.
Kaiserschmarrn, for example, is basically just shredded pancake.
And Tafelspitz – another favourite of the monarch – is essentially just boiled beef.
Now, you can pick and prod at the recipe as much as you like and embellish it with all sorts of little extras. But it all comes down to a piece of beef, boiled.
And yet Tafelspitz carries a slight air of imperial grandeur here, likely thanks to the royal connection and the use of a finer cut of beef.
In fact, Tafelspitz is also the name of that specific cut of meat in the butcher’s beef dictionary. It retains a characteristic layer of fat on one side. If there’s no fat, it’s not Tafelspitz.
The dish forms a bulwark of the kind of traditional cuisine that takes us back to times when beef was beef and men wore moustaches you could hide an elephant in.
Anyway, Tafelspitz serves as a Viennese “delicacy” particularly suited to special occasions…for dinner parties, having family round, or a holiday celebration. It even serves as the flagship dish on the menus of some of Vienna’s more upmarket restaurants, such as Plachutta on the Wollzeile.
(Boiled with chives and root vegetables)
You boil the meat in simmering water until very soft and tender, along with soup greens and/or soup cubes, perhaps with other vegetables added toward the end of the process.
People then typically use the leftover broth as a soup before the meat course.
Once done, you serve the boiled meat in slices. The range of plausible side dishes all live on the “hearty” end of the culinary spectrum: horseradish, apple sauce, liquified spinach, potatoes, cabbage, chive sauce, etc.
It occurs to me that liquified spinach sounds less than appetising. Creamed spinach?
According to the Austrian government (who take their meat very seriously), the dish was at least popularised by Franz Joseph. One might consider him an early culinary influencer.
One legend also suggests Tafelspitz may have first appeared in Hotel Sacher sometime around the middle/end of the 19th century. And, yes, that’s the Hotel Sacher of Sachertorte fame.
As mentioned, you find Tafelspitz on many restaurant menus. Given the cost of the prime ingredient and the time needed to prepare it, look at the more expensive end of the main courses.
These restaurants often serve the meat in a pot: ready sliced but still immersed in a warming, flavoursome broth.
Bon Appetit! (Or Mahlzeit, as we say in Vienna.)