Croatia: Another Home Cooking Disaster?

After a slightly successful (yet cold chicken) Singapore adventure at home, we tried to go back-to-back nights.  Usually you learn from the first night and try to learn from your mistakes, not so sure if this happened.  Tonight we went with Croatia, mainly because I found a Croatian beer from Total Wine.  The biggest fail from this would be that Twinkie (the dog with the iron stomach) had to be rushed to an animal ER from this food a week later.

I would call Croatia a slight success but mainly having a giant piece of meat stuffed with bacon can never be a failure.  The Croatian dish is called Pasticada (beef stew). It started the night before where I took a 3lb roast and slit holes in it, stuffing it with bacon.  (As seen below)20151004_232430

I then marinated meat in apple cider vinegar (too much we came to find out the next day) plus mustard and salt.  I kept the meat marinating in a bag overnight in the fridge, eagerly waiting to cook this the next day.

The prep work for this meal wasn’t so bad the next day.  To go with the meal there were plenty of liquids, seasonings and vegetables to be had.  Let me tell you about some of these vegetables, boy do you learn a lot when you eat from these country’s native fields.  I had never heard of parsley root or celery root but we were using them tonight.  Both smelled like turnips and had a strong odor.  They were mixed in with some carrots as well.  Also were cut up apples and dried figs to be thrown in later.  Later some red wine, tomato paste and bay leaves were mixed in.

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I also took out the meat and placed it in hot oil, browning it on all sides.   Taking it out when brown, sauteing some onions, garlic and vegetables (both roots and carrots).  I placed the meat back in the pot and poured some of the red wine through out the cooking of the meat, which took about 2-3 hours in the end.

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About halfway through I put in the apples and figs. Later mixed in some tomato paste, bay leaves and rosemary.  The aroma coming from the kitchen was outstanding.  We were done with the easy part of this meal, now comes the complete disaster.

Many countries we have made types of dumplings, yet we didn’t realize how hard gnocchi was.  The biggest difference with Croatian gnocchi is that it is not potato, mostly just flour, milk and butter.  Bridget took control of the gnocchi and from what I could tell did an excellent job with the mess that it was.  We boiled milk and added nutmeg, butter, oil and salt.  Let me tell you now nutmeg is gross by itself and the fact I tried to taste a large amount, I still regret to this day.

Bridget added the flour to the liquid that boiled, mixing it together.  She made it into a giant formation, cooling for about 3-4 hours.  After cooling, she divided it into 3-4 logs.  Then cutting them in identical pieces.  This was the easy part, yet it was sticky and gross.

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Cooled and formed into logs. Cut into pieces looking like gefilte fish

We put the pieces in boiling water and watched as they proceeded to dissolve in minutes.  The recipe asked for 12 minutes, yet they barely made it 4-5 without turning to what looked like oatmeal.  It was a complete disaster and we just went on without making gnocchi.  Bridget did make a few more in 4-5 minutes, taking them out right before they dissolved.  They were gooey and didn’t come out how they were supposed to, being skipped in the long run. [Editor’s Note: I ate mine!!]

The meat was done at this point as well and I took it out.  Came out beautiful and the house still had a great smell.

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How could you not like meat with bacon sticking out of it

The meat was done and there was a ton of sauce left that it was cooking in.  I took the hand mixer and pureed everything that the meat was cooking in, into a sauce.

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The meat was plated with some of the 2nd round of gnocchi Bridget made.  To go with the Pasticada  I opened the Croatian beer  I bought a while back, Karlovacka.

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The food looks bland but what a great taste on the tongue.  The meat was cooked well and the pureed sauce gave it so much more flavor.  Twinkie would come to disagree as she ate the leftovers that were tossed a week later in the garbage.  After a $544 ER bill, I soon learned how overrated Croatia cuisine can be and how much a dog can fit in her belly (or can’t)

-Matt

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