Posted by: nekojita | March 5, 2008

I *heart* cevapčići!

I finally got around to making the cevapčići featured in last month’s Saveur magazine (Jan./Feb. 2008). My only complaint is “Why did I delay making them for so long?!”

In fact, I bought the Saveur about a month ago in large part for this recipe. Then I bummed around for a while making pulled pork and other items that didn’t required reference to a recipe. I guess I just didn’t feel like following someone else’s instructions.

However, this story goes back farther than a mere moon’s cycle. When I went to Dubrovnik for a week in Oct. 2006, I had a really nice time and ate many delicious Dalmatian foods, such as octopus salad, grilled branzino and steamed mussels. Still, by day six, I was just a wee bit tired of seafood, which is obviously the most traditional source of protein along the clear rocky shores of the east Adriatic. So, I took a chance and ordered a specialty from the Balkan hinterland (I had these described to me as Bosnian in origin, but Saveur suggested that it was Serbian in origin): cevapčići. They strongly resemble Middle Eastern kufta or cylindrical versions of Jimmy Dean sausage patties. The ones I had in Dubrovnik were served with crispy french fries and sprinkled with a mild crumbly white cheese (not unlike Queso Fresco). They were emphatically meaty, slightly greasy and seemed the most perfectly satisfying type of junk food. It made me wonder why Italy has so many of those sub-par Doner-kebab joints instead of Balkan cevapčićerie (I just made up that word–I only wish that it really existed).

So when I saw Saveur recipe, I was jolted into a pleasurable memory of smoky, succulent pseudo-sausages. And I had to get the magazine, in spite of its hefty price tag. These cevapčići were meant to be served with ajvom–a sweet and savory puree of peppers and eggplant–and sour cream (I mashed together a mix of sour cream and Israeli feta, but will probably go find queso fresco next time). Amazingly, I was not disappointed! This tends to happen, I think , when you place the memory of a food on a pedestal at the level of heavenly manna. But no, these were really really good.

I think that, due in large part to the heretical mix of meats involved (beef, lamb AND pork), these rise above the level of kufta. The pork adds a certain moistness and sweetness to the patties that kufta tend to lack.

Note to unwary prospective cevapčići makers: You will have to quash any natural squeamishness you may have to make these. The three-inch long cylinders you will have to make look like nothing if not orderly rows of poops. Get over it, though, and you will be rewarded…

Pictures to come…


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