There have been several times in my life when I was in desperate need of 3 stomachs.
My first expat Thanksgiving. The truffle extravagana during my first trip to Istria. The night I perfected my apple pie recipe. The great sushi gorge of 2010.
Just kidding, you can't ever get full on sushi.
And last but not least, my recent wine tour of Krolo Winery near Trilj, Croatia in the Dalmatian hinterland. The wine was great, but the food was face-stuffing excellent.
I redefined the word gluttony and conceived a big fat food baby that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning kicking and screaming. It was totally worth it.
Prepare yourself for ultimate Croatian food porn.
Every food culture has some kind of fried dough. "Uštipak" is just one of many fried doughs in Croatian cuisine. It can be coated in sugar or wrapped around some salty cheese and ham, which brings us to…
…that salty cheese and ham I mentioned. This homemade cow's milk cheese was so fresh that it had been inside a cow two days earlier. A cow that lived down the road. Imagine that.
On the other side of this wheel of food ecstasy is pršut (the Dalmatian version of prosciutto). It differs from the Italian kind in that it's smoked and it benefits from the cool north wind known as "bura" that dries out the ham as it cures. As a wise Croatian lady once told me, "Without bura, there is no good pršut."
This is the part of the post where I offer you a drumroll, as you are about to see my all time favorite Croatian dish. When a homemade dish of pašticada and gnocchi is laid before you, there is no other choice but to eat twice your weight.
In English, some may call it beef stew. Some may call it pot roast. But those labels do not do pašticada justice. While those dishes take a few hours to make, pašticada takes 3 days.
Every family does their own twist on the recipe, but at its core, it's beef marinated in garlic, vinegar and perhaps some bacon for 2 days. Then it slowly simmers for hours in a puree of root vegetables, tomatoes, more garlic and a couple types of booze whether it be red wine, brandy, rakija (like an ouzo) or Prošek (Croatia's famous dessert wine), which create a super meaty and luscious gravy. You might even find a few dried fruits in it like plums or apricots. It's always served with handmade potato gnocchi.
Let's see it again, a close up perhaps, for posterity.
You're probably wondering what would posses me to tease you with such glorious food porn without providing you with a recipe. I mean, this is primarily a recipe blog, you know. Well, Croatians don't give up their secrets so easily. I've been plying a few of them with fig tarts and cream cakes. With a few more sweet bribes, I'm confident one of them will crack.
If you'd like to see more about the wine part of the tour, here's a short video: