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, typically eaten with apple sauce and horseradish
- Considered (surprisingly) a rather refined dish
- See also:
What is Tafelspitz?
(We’d more or less run out of root vegetables. And potatoes. And beef, frankly.)
Amusingly, the food much loved by Emperor Franz Joseph was often very basic, with the decoration and complex preparation left to the tableware and napkins.
Kaiserschmarrn, for example, is basically just shredded pancake.
Another favourite of our long-lived monarch was Tafelspitz. 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.
(Tafelspitz is also the name of that specific meat joint used, cut from the rump, with a characteristic layer of fat on one side. If there’s no fat, it’s not Tafelspitz.)
The dish forms a bulwark of Viennese traditional cuisine that conjures up images of more reliable times. When beef was beef and real men wore moustaches you could hide an elephant in.
Anyway, Tafelspitz is certainly a Viennese “delicacy” 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.
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 typically use the leftover broth as a soup before the meat course.)
Once done, you serve the boiled meat in slices, accompanied by a range of possible side dishes, all of which err on the “hearty” side of the culinary palate: horseradish, apple sauce, liquified spinach, potatoes, cabbage, chive sauce, etc..
According to the Austrian government (who take their meat very seriously), the dish 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 too; 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.)