Sunday, December 2, 2018

Carbonada en Zapallo: Argentinian Beef Stew in a Pumpkin

Carbonada en Zapallo Just out of the Oven
Pumpkin and Beef Stew: A Delightful Combination

Adapted from an old Recipe

What is in an Argentinian beef stew? First, top quality beef: grass fed, organic, and humanely raised. Next, bell peppers, corn, sweet potato, and a sweet stone fruit. Add some typical US ingredients: onion, garlic, potatoes, and tomatoes. This masterpiece of flavors is stuffed inside a pumpkin and baked to perfection. It’s served by scooping out the stew along with some pumpkin. This is a wonderfully festive meal for a family gathering, or what my buddy Jon the Baker calls Friendsgiving celebrations.

Bowl of Carbonada en Zapallo
Better than Noodles: Beef Stew with Pumpkin
So yes, it’s not exactly Seasonal Eating in California, because apricot and corn harvests rarely intersect with pumpkin harvest. So I solved the dilemma with dried apricots and frozen corn. Another challenge was identifying the kind of sweet potato native to South America. I chose the light-colored choice marked Sweet Potato in the market, but that is actually a yam (read about this controversy here), instead of the orange potato that’s labeled Yam but is really a sweet potato. Mostly, I thought the orange variety would be too sweet and squishy. For the regular potatoes, I wanted a more waxy potato that would hold up to simmering and baking, so chose red fingerlings. The insides of these are also red (which I didn’t know beforehand), so that altered the look of the stew. Use your own skill and preferences when choosing which kind of sweet potatoes and potatoes to use!

Sugar Pie and Winter Luxury Pumpkins after Baking
Avoid Collapse by Filling Two Pumpkins
And then, there is the matter of pumpkins. The original recipe calls for a 10 lb. Cinderella or Cheese pumpkin, but these might be hard to find, and the cheese pumpkin in particular is hard to cut. These varieties do stand up to baking—you do not want to have your pumpkin full of stew collapse! But, there is another way to solve the possible collapse problem: use 2 pumpkins, both about 6 lbs. I used 6 lb. Winter Luxury, and two Sugar Pie pumpkins: one 5 lb. and one small (< 1 lb.), which worked perfectly. I chose to include a mini-pumpkin in my calculations so that I could send a little treat home to Jon the Baker’s mom. Winter Luxury, an heirloom, is a tastier pumpkin than the standard Sugar Pie, but is hard to find outside Farmers’ Markets.

Two Pumpkins Filled with Fresh Stew
Beef Stew Revealed and Ready to Serve
To ease the pressure on the cook, the stew can be prepared the day before, up to simmering the potatoes. On the day of the party, cut and scoop the pumpkin/s, and get them baking. Then heat up the stew to simmering temperature, add the corn and apricots, and proceed. This will give you enough time to cool off the stew a bit before the pumpkins are ready to fill.

Enjoy this festive Argentinian treat with family and friends. It’s a delightful alternative to pie, breads, and other sweet treats when you want to use up those Sugar Pie decorations to make way for winter holiday trimmings.

Pumpkin with Just a Little Stew Left
When Stew is Gone, Puree and Freeze Extra Pumpkin
Carbonada en Zapallo: Argentinian Beef Stew in a Pumpkin
Serves 10 – 12

1 – 10 lb. pumpkin, or 2 – 6 lb. pumpkins
2 – 3 tbsp. olive oil
1.5 lb. grass fed stew beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, in ½ inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green bell peppers, chopped (2½ cups)
1 lb. fingerling potatoes, cut in ¾ inch chunks
1 lb. sweet potato, cut in ¾ inch dice
½ cup dried whole apricots, quartered
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (1¼ cups)
¼ cup red wine
2 bay leaves
½ tsp. dried oregano
3 – 4 cups beef stock
½ tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare pumpkins by slicing off tops about ¼ to 1/3 of the way down from the top. The idea is to create a “bowl” for the stew, with a cover that sits on top, so plan the cut accordingly. Scoop out seeds and strings—a grapefruit spoon is an expedient tool for this.

Place lid/s on pumpkin/s and place them on a sturdy baking sheet. Bake about 45 – 50 minutes, until just tender when pierced with fork. Remove from oven, but leave on baking sheet. Also, continue to heat oven.

While pumpkin is baking, brown stew meat on all sides in 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat, in a large skillet or electric frying pan (400 degrees F). Remove meat to a plate. Reduce heat (325 degrees F.) and saut̩ onions, garlic, and bell pepper in the skillet, adding more olive oil as needed. Stir frequently and saut̩ till soft, about 10 Р15 minutes.

Deglaze pan with red wine. Add reserved browned beef, tomatoes, bay leaves, oregano, and 3 cups beef stock. Cover and simmer 40 minutes (~225 -250 degrees F.) Season with salt and pepper.

Add fingerlings and sweet potatoes, and add up to 1 cup stock as needed. Simmer 20 minutes.

Add corn and dried apricots. Simmer 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.

Cool the beef stew slightly to make handling it easier. Spoon into partially baked pumpkins. Place lids on pumpkins and return to 375 degree F. oven. Bake for 45 minutes or longer, until pumpkins are tender and stew is hot.

Serve the stew inside the pumpkin. Have guests serve themselves by scooping out some stew along with some pumpkin.

Serve with a fresh green salad or purple cabbage and apple slaw for a full, festive meal.

NOTE: Leftover pumpkin, slightly infused with beef stew, can be used in savory pumpkin dishes, like soups, casseroles, and stews. Scoop it out of the shell, puree it with an immersion blender, and measure into air-tight containers in 2-cup or 4-cup portions. Freeze any portions that you won’t use within a couple of days.

Bowl of Carbonada en Zapallo
Leftovers Taste Even Better

Winter Luxury Pumpkin filled with Stew
Winter Luxury Pumpkin Looks Odd, Tastes Delicious!

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