Croatia is having a moment right now. It’s amazing how many people are traveling to Croatia for the first time. If you’ve followed us for a while you’ll know that we’re huge fans of Grgich Hills Estate in Napa, founded by Mike Grgich, a first-generation Croatian immigrant, and we’ve had multiple occasions to try amazing Croatian food at winery events.
If a trip to Croatia isn’t in your short-term plans, you can get a taste of the incredible cuisine at home with Ino Kuvaicic’s new book, Dalmatia. Pašticada is a slow-cooked Croatian beef stew using beef cheeks and it looks incredible. If you’ve never cooked with beef cheeks, it’s one of the most tender cuts of beef. We typically find ours at our butcher, but if you can’t find it at the store, you could substitute cuts of brisket or chuck roast.
As Kuvacic describes, “This is the queen of Dalmatian dishes. It takes a long time to prepare—at least one day marinating in good red wine or prošek (Dalmatian fortified wine) and vegetables, and a good 3–4 hours’ braising the next day. It’s often served with potato dumplings (see below) or handmade pasta. In Dalmatia, pašticada is usually cooked for big celebrations. It’s an essential dish for weddings, christenings or other equally important days.
In Dalmatia you are considered a great cook if you can make this dish, and my grandmother Tomica was a pašticada expert. Don’t be frightened by this though – it’s not that hard; it just takes a little time. But don’t forget the most important ingredient – love.”
- 2.5 kg (5 ½ lb) Beef Cheeks
- 1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) Red Wine
- 50 ml (1 ¾ fl oz) Red Wine Vinegar
- 2 Onions, sliced 2 mm (1/8 in) thick
- 2 Carrots, sliced 2 mm (1/8 in) thick
- 2 Celery Stalks, sliced 2 mm (1/8 in) thick
- 3 Cloves
- ½ Cinnamon Stick
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 200 ml (7 fl oz) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 100 g (3 ½ oz) Prosciutto, chopped
- 3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
- 400 g (14 oz) Tomatoes, cut into chunks
- 3 litres (101 fl oz/12 cups) Beef Stock
- 2 Apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
- 200 g (7 oz) tinned Pitted Prunes, cut into 2–3 cm (¾ – 1 ¼ in) dice
- 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 teaspoon Prune Jam
- Sea Salt
- Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Marinate the beef overnight in the red wine, vinegar, onion, carrot, celery, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves.
- The next day, take the beef out of the marinade, separating the vegetables and reserving the liquid.
- Seal the cheeks in a frying pan in the olive oil over high heat for 2–3 minutes. Remove the beef from the pan and deglaze the pan with the liquid from the marinade.
- In a saucepan over high heat, sauté the chopped prosciutto and, when crispy, the chopped garlic. Add all the marinated vegetables and spices and sauté for 20–25 minutes.
- When the vegetables are cooked, add the tomato and sauté for a further 5 minutes.
- Add the sealed beef cheeks, the liquid you used to deglaze the pan and the beef stock. Braise for 1½ hours. Add the peeled apples and pitted prunes and cook for a further hour or until the cheeks are cooked – you should be able to push your finger through the cheek but it should still have some resistance.
- When the beef cheeks are cooked, remove the beef, cinnamon stick and bay leaves from the braising liquid and set aside. Skim the scum from the top of the liquid, then blend it with a hand-held blender until smooth.
- Adjust the flavour by adding the mustard and prune jam – the flavour should be sweet and sour. Divide the beef cheeks among serving plates and pour the sauce over to serve.
- 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) waxy Potatoes, such as desiree, sebago or nicola
- 240 g (8 ½ oz) plain All-purpose Flour
- 50 g (1 ¾ oz) Butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 50 g (1 ¾ oz/ ½ cup) grated Parmesan Cheese
- Put the potatoes, unpeeled, in a saucepan of cold water. Season with salt and cook until the potatoes are soft and the tip of a knife can be easily inserted. Drain the potatoes and peel them while still hot.
- Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer and put them in a bowl with the flour, softened butter, egg and parmesan and season with salt. Taste the dough to check if it’s seasoned enough.
- While still warm, roll the dough into 2 cm (¾ in) balls and roll a fork over them.
- Cook the dumplings in boiling water for 3 minutes, until they come to the surface. Gently take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon, drain them and then put them in a bowl. Serve with sauce, sprinkled with parsley and freshly grated parmesan.
Excerpt and photo printed with permission from Dalmatia: Recipes from Croatia’s Mediterranean Coast by Ino Kuvačić, published by Hardie Grant Books May 2017.