I wanted to make the recipe that won the National Beef Cook-off for dinner for several reasons. First, I was curious to try the recipe that snagged the $50 grand -- and also because I got to know the recipe's creator at the contest, and thought she was a great gal. I needed to use up some squash left over from Wickham Farms. And perhaps most importantly, I was hoping for a recipe to make me more enthusiastic about winter squash (I've never been a big fan of the stuff).
Well, this has to be one of the worst food photos I've ever taken. It really doesn't do the recipe justice. I was in a rush to get dinner on the table, so I didn't spend a lot of time on it. Those weird looking white cubes are actually cubes of avocado. The flash must have washed out the color of the avocado. If you want to see a better photo, go to the National Beef Cook-off web site.
Anyway, I expected the recipe to be fussy, but it really wasn't. In fact, I'd say it requires less hands-on time than our meatball sub recipe. You toss cubes of stew meat with a spicy tomato-based sauce and pop it in the oven. A half hour later you add a quartered butternut squash to the oven. A little over an hour later, dinner is done. You serve the beef over the butternut squash, and garnish with tomato, avocado, and cilantro.
I can see why the dish was a winner. The sweet butternut squash was a nice compliment to the spicy beef (although the beef was a bit too spicy for my husband's liking). The tomato and avocado added color and freshness to the dish (I left out the cilantro). Here's the recipe:
Christine Riccitelli's Nuevo Chipotle Beef in Butternut Squash Boats
Winner of the 2007 National Beef Cook-off (with a few minor changes from me)
Total preparation and cooking time: 2 to 2 3/4 hours
1 1/2 pounds lean beef for stew
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons ground chipotle chile pepper (if you don't like spicy foods, you may want to cut down to 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
1 1/2 cups water
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 small ripe avocado, cut into cubes (optional -- I liked it with this, though)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I didn't use because I hate the stuff)
1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Place beef, 1/3 cup water, tomato paste, sugar, vinegar, chipotle pepper, cumin, salt and black pepper in stock pot (I used a covered casserole dish). Cover and bake in 325 F oven 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours or until beef is fork-tender.
2. Meanwhile, cut squash lengthwise into quarters; remove seeds. Place squash cut-side down in 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish, overlapping if necessary. Add 1 1/2 cups water. Bake in 325 F oven 1 to 1 1/3 hours or until fork-tender (I found it took longer than this. I would put in the oven as soon as you are done quartering and getting the seeds out).
3. Place each baked squash quarter onto serving plate. Fill with equal amounds of beef mixture. Top with garnishes -- tomato, avocado, and cilantro -- as desired.
Makes 4 servings