Pašticada (Croatia)

Pašticada is a long-simmered piece of beef, the kind of beef that would normally be tough and chewy, but when you cook it low and slow melts in your mouth. Flavored with vinegar, fruit, veggies, and spices, it’s a traditional holiday or Sunday night meal,

 

Basically, you take a big ol’ slab of top round, or silverside in the UK, stick cloves of garlic and pieces of prosciutto inside it, douse it in vinegar, and leave it overnight to marinate. The next day, you quickly sear it. Then you roast it with veggies like onion, celery root, carrots, plus prunes, and wine and olive oil. Low and slow in the oven. 

 

When it’s done, as the meat rests, you puree the fruit, veggies, spices, wine, and drippings into a succulent sauce. And serve it all over njoki (gnocchi if you’d rather), which is far easier to make at home than you think.

 

Every Croatian grandmother has her own recipe; this is one that seems like a winner to me. Since, as I may have mentioned, my wife doesn’t eat red meat, I’m reliant on you to try this out.

 

Serves 6

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5-2 kg (3.5-4.5 lb) of stewing beef (top round or silverside in the UK)

  • 100 g (3.5 oz) pršut (Croatian prosciutto) (Consider Italian prosciutto or regular bacon, cut in smallish squares or strips as an alternative.)

  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise

  • 6 cloves

  • 3 juniper berries

  • salt

  • 750 ml (3 cups) balsamic vinegar (This can be expensive. Red wine vinegar will work as well.)

  • 400 ml (1 2/3 cup) dry red wine, divided (The Croatian Plavac Mali is closely related to Zinfandel, so try that.)

  • 100ml (half a cup) extra virgin olive oil

  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) flour

  • 250 ml (1 cup) beef broth

  • 5 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

  • 1 large celery root, peeled and coarsely chopped

  • 1 parsley root, peeled and coarsely chopped (if you cannot find parsley root, use more celery and add a large potato, peeled and coarsely chopped.)

  • 150 ml (2/3 cup) prošek (a white Croatian desert wine, which is NOT prosecco - very different. Consider Sauternes as an alternative.)

  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) sugar

  • salt to taste

  • black pepper to taste

  • 8 prunes, finely chopped

  • 1 bunch fresh parsley

  • package of gnocchi (unless you're making your own - which is delicious and easier than you'd think, but outside the scope of this recipe)

 

STEPS

  1. Begin on the day before you intend to serve the pašticada. Dry the beef and use a sharp knife to cut small openings all over. Carefully insert the pršut or bacon, garlic and cloves.

  2. In a ceramic or aluminium bowl, combine the vinegar with the juniper berries, a bay leaf, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper into the vinegar to make a marinade.

  3. Place the meat inside, top up with about 250 ml red wine until fully covered. Leave in the fridge or a cold place for a minimum of 12 hours, but preferably for 24.

  4. The next day, take the meat out of the marinade and dab it dry with paper towels. Be sure to reserve the marinade! Remove the pršut/bacon, garlic and cloves from the meat and reserve them as well.

  5. Roll the beef in the flour until it’s lightly dusted on all sides.

  6. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven on medium-high. Place the meat in the hot oil, turning regularly until it is browned on all sides. This should take about 10 minutes. Once browned, remove the meat from the pan, retaining the oil.

  7. Using the same oil over medium high heat, sauté the onions and carrots, plus the garlic and bacon that were used with the marinade, until the bacon starts to brown (the meaty parts). Stir constantly.

  8. Deglaze the pan with the beef broth and bring to a boil. Replace the beef to the Dutch oven, cover partially, and boil for about 10 minutes.

  9. Meanwhile, mix the tomato paste, dessert wine, an additional 150 ml red wine and sugar in a bowl.

  10. When the broth and beef have boiled 10 minutes, add the wine blend to the Dutch oven, then add the celery root, parsley root and 2 bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper, reduce to low heat and cover.

  11. Simmer for 80 minutes, stirring lightly occasionally. If the braising liquid starts to dry up, add some of the leftover marinade.

  12. Halfway through the simmer, about 40 minutes in, add the chopped prunes. Stir well.

  13. Continue simmering for another 80 minutes, or until the meat is very tender. Again, add marinade if the braising liquid is dry.

  14. Once the meat is tender enough, remove it from the Dutch oven, let it cool a little and cut it into thick slices (about 2 cm, a little less than an inch, in thickness).

  15. For the sauce, turn up the heat of the remaining liquids and vegetables to high and boil for at least 5 minutes to reduce the sauce. Remove the bay leaves and juniper berries (if possible) and either use an immersion blender or, in batches, puree the sauce in a blender.

  16. Prepare your gnocchi (njoki) according to the package instructions (assuming you’re not making your own).

  17. Return the blended sauce to the saucepan, season to taste, add the meat and reheat.

  18. Your pašticada is now ready to serve. Sprinkle it with fresh parsley, then place a slice or two of meat per plate next to some gnocchi (or other accompaniment) and pour the sauce generously over both. Serve with a fresh green salad.

 

Recipe adapted from https://www.petersommer.com/blog/another-bite/pasticada

Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/saundersmecklem/25598495030

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