apple cider vinegar, bacon, bay leaves, broth, brown sugar, carrots, chuck roast, Dijon mustard, dried figs, garlic, herbs, lemons, Medjool dates, olive oil, parmesan cheese, parsnip, pearl onions, prunes, red wine, spices
I was reading a blog the other day, and I ran across something called Pašticada. So, what’s this about? Not being Croatian, this was new to me, but from what I was reading, this dish is a pretty big deal. For the non-Croatian palate, this may seem like an odd combination of flavors to use with beef—lemons, nutmeg, cloves, prunes and other dried fruit—all braised slowly in red wine and plum brandy. It seems this mixture is a signature Dalmatian dish. Dalmatia (…yes, like the dogs) is the rather large Southern coastal region in the “tail” of Croatia that runs along the Adriatic Sea and borders Bosnia-Herzegovina. Since the Dalmatian coast runs along the Adriatic, the cuisine relies heavily on fresh fish and seafood, which is usually grilled with local olive oil, garlic and lemon. But, meat is also part of the cuisine. Smoked Dalmatian ham, thinly sliced, is often served as an appetizer. Lamb, either boiled or baked, is common and then there’s this—Pašticada (pronounced as Pashtitsada). And you know how The Goddess loves pot roast. Anything braised, really.
This recipe is reminiscent of sauerbraten, sans the gingersnaps. Apparently, it’s quite often prepared for special celebrations, like weddings, christenings, at times, funerals and at Christmas, as well. The Dalmatians give the meat a nice soak in vinegar. However, I used a combination of red wine, with a little vinegar for the marinade. I used some leftover red wine (yes, now and again that happens!). I tasted the wine and found it was beginning to be slightly vinegary, so I only added a couple of tablespoons of vinegar per cup. I wanted the marinade to be sharp, but more wine-y than vinegar-y. But, bearing in mind that apparently the Croatians use only vinegar for the marinade, use your own taste preference. They lard the meat; larding is “threading” a strip of fat through lean meat to keep the meat moist. This particular cut doesn’t need that, as it has some decent marbling. This piece of meat had a good soak in a rather dark red wine, which has a tendency to make the meat have a sort of purple-red hue, but the flavor was great. I wanted the bacon-y flavor, so I sautéed the bacon, until the fat rendered out,and used part of the fat to brown the meat in…flavor, baby. Flavor! Then, over very low heat, the meat had a long, slow simmer for several hours. About half way through, I added the veggies, dried fruit, spices, herbs and lemons, so as not to overcook everything. At the very end of cooking, just before serving, I intended to stir in the mustard, but it slipped my mind. Hunger will do that to you. The mustard doesn’t appear to be a common ingredient, but I think it’s a nice addition. The Croatians slice the meat and serve it with gnocchi. Tell me you’re not intrigued by this combination of flavors. This was a really delicious dinner and it should become part of your repertoire.
After the meat has finished cooking, remove it from the pot and slice it. Now, most of the recipes use an immersion blender to blend the vegetables into the sauce. I wanted the veggies whole. I thickened the mixture with an arrowroot slurry, but by all means feel free to whirl up those veggies.
Croatian Braised Beef
- 2.5-4 pounds mock beef tenderloin or chuck beef roast
- 5-6 garlic cloves, sliced
- Red wine to cover the meat (a little on the sweet side is okay)
- Apple cider vinegar—2 tablespoons per cup of wine
- 3-4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat (or lard)
- 2-3 tablespoons white rice flour or cornstarch
- 2 onions, with root end in tact, quartered (or 1 cup pearl onions)
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 celery root, peeled and quartered (or 3 ribs celery, cut into 2-inch lengths)
- 1 parsnip, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch lengths
- 1 cup beef broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/3 cup sweet dessert wine (I used Polish plum brandy or Marsala)
- 1/2 cup red dry wine (you may need more)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 6 prunes
- 4 dried figs, cut in half
- 4 dried Medjool dates, pitted (or 1 small apple, peeled & quartered)
- 1 lemon, cut into slices
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (optional)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (taste the sauce before adding)
- Arrowroot slurry (for thickening, if desired)
- 1 lb gnocchi, pasta or boiled potatoes
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
Pierce the meat with the sharp point of a knife. Put two Zip-Loc freezer bags together, one inside the other. Place the sliced garlic in the bottom of the inner Zip-Loc bag. Combine enough red wine and vinegar using the ratio of 2 tablespoons vinegar per cup of red wine to cover the roast; for this roast I used 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and 1 1/2 cups red wine. Pour the wine/vinegar mixture over the meat. Seal the inner bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Seal the out bag. The wine/vinegar should cover the meat. Place the sealed bag(s) in the fridge for at least 8 hours or up to 48 hours. You might want to put the bag in a dish, just in case the bag isn’t sealed tightly.
The next day, remove the meat from the wine/vinegar; pat dry. Fish the garlic slices out of the marinade; reserve the garlic. Discard the marinade.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat (I used my Instant Pot). Add the bacon; fry until the bacon has rendered most of its fat. Remove the bacon; set aside. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat; add the olive oil.
Dust meat with the rice flour. Add the meat to the hot fat; do not move the meat for at least 2 minutes to allow it to brown. Using a tongs, turn the meat and let it brown, not moving the meat for 1-2 minutes. Browning will take about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the meat from the pot; set aside on a plate with an edge.
Add the onions to the pot. Add the reserved garlic to the pot, along with the ground cloves and allspice. Sauté for a few minutes. Return the meat to the pot; add broth and bay leaves. Simmer for about 6 to 8 minutes.
Stir the tomato paste into the plum brandy. Add, along with the red wine and the dried fruit. Simmer for one hour; add the carrots, celery, parsnip, lemon slices, rosemary and thyme sprigs. Continue to simmer, covered on LOW heat for 3 hours or until the meat is completely tender. About 10 minutes before the meat finishes cooking add the ground nutmeg.
When the meat is tender, remove it to a plate; cut into 1/2-inch thick slices. Remove the sprigs of fresh herbs. Whisk in enough arrowroot slurry to thicken the mixture. Then, remove the pan from the heat source and stir in the mustard, if using, and the balsamic vinegar into the sauce. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.
Serve with potato gnocchi, some of the delicious sauce and garnish with parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.
- You may omit the cornstarch slurry and use an immersion blender to blend the vegetables into the sauce, after the meat has finished cooking. If this is what you plan to do, add the vegetables with the red wine and plum brandy.
- Taste at the end. I found I needed to add the full amount of the vinegars, as the sauce was quite sweet…you want that sweet/sour balance.
- It is imperative that you use freshly grated nutmeg. The flavor is very specific. Do not use the pre-ground stuff.
- Though gnocchi is traditional to serve with the meat, any other pasta or rice or mashed potatoes would be equally delicious.
Croatian Braised Beef Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2017. All rights reserved.
Don’t you think this could be a great way to cook a boneless pork butt? Think about it. I think lamb shanks would be wonderful. Though not at all traditional (what does “traditional” really mean, anyway?), I also think a handful of olives tossed in at the end might be rather nice, too…options!