Recipe Brings Home The "best Of Beef"

When it comes to America's dinner choices, beef is the word. According to The Beef Checkoff, consumer demand for beef is up 15 percent since 1998. And with so many savory ways to prepare it, beef is bound to find its way onto even more plates.

A prime example is Nuevo Chipotle Beef in Butternut Squash Boats, the winning creation in the 27th National Beef Cook-Off. Developed by Christine Riccitelli of Incline Village, Nev., the dish features a delicious blend of Latino flavor influences, including chipotle chile pepper, ripe avocado and butternut squash.

This year, the Cook-Off-a premier opportunity for home cooks to create enjoyable beef recipes that provide fuel for their families-awarded a total of $110,000 in prize money.

Nuevo Chipotle Beef in

Butternut Squash Boats

Total preparation and cook time:

2 to 23/4 hours

11/2 lbs. beef for stew

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tsp. ground chipotle chile pepper

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 medium butternut squash (about 3 lbs.)

11/2 cups water

1 medium tomato, chopped

1 small, ripe avocado, cut into cubes (optional)

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Place beef, water, tomato paste, sugar, vinegar, chipotle pepper, cumin, salt and black pepper in stockpot. Cover and bake in oven 13/4 to 21/4 hours or until beef is fork-tender.

2. Meanwhile, cut squash lengthwise into quarters; remove seeds. Place squash cut side down in 13x9-inch glass baking dish, overlapping if necessary. Add water. Bake in oven 1 to 11/4 hours or until fork-tender.

3. Place each baked squash quarter onto serving plate. Fill with equal amounts of beef mixture. Top with tomato and avocado, if desired. Sprinkle with cilantro.

Makes 4 servings.

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About The Author, Wendy Mitchell
About the National Beef Cook-Off: The National Beef Cook-Off® is now a biennial contest, presented back in 1974 by The Beef Checkoff Program. The contest was held annually until 1993. The Cook-Off is coordinated by the American National CattleWomen, Inc.To view the winning entries, visit the Web site at Chipotle Beef in Butternut Squash Boats won this year's National Beef Cook-Off.