Croatian Christmas classics
Thanks to Agrokor vina, we were invited to a great workshop whose aim was to pair all-time favourite holiday dishes with the appropriate wines in the most affordable price category of up to 70 kn. We felt like we hit the jackpot, because this was the ideal opportunity to make a best-of Croatian Christmas catalog and show you what it’s all about when Croats from various regions gather around the Christmas table. The food was technically impeccable and yet so homey that it brought back many happy memories from childhood. No wonder, since it was prepared by old-school chef Branko Ognjenović, the captain of Croatian national cooking team. And his wine partner couldn’t have been a better one than Klaudio Jurčić, Croatian sommelier champion.
1) Cod pâté “a la bianco” + Malvazija Agrolaguna
Cod is the Christmas evergreen along the coast, prepared in many different ways, but this light and smooth pâté makes a perfect introduction to a rich Christmas Eve family dinner.
2) Roast pork + Graševina Belje
On the continent, pork is the substitute for fish. Long roasted the day before, it’s nice and succulent with crispy skin when it’s cold. Chef’s advice: never salt the pork on the outside!
3) Sarma (sour cabbage rolls stuffed with minced meat) + Traminac Iločki podrumi
No New Year’s Eve would be complete without a warm sarma, later reheated and eaten for days (also a good cure for hangover). It’s also one of the trickiest dishes for pairing with wine. Aromatic Traminac (Traminer) was an unexpected and somewhat controversial choice, but proved to be a worthy companion to this sourish and not very light dish.
4) Roast turkey with mlinci (pasta tatters) + Frankovka Iločki podrumi
This dish is most common in Zagreb and northern Croatia. And if you can get a hold of a real free-range indigenous Zagorje turkey, you’re very lucky. It has to be noted that these were the best mlinci ever! Perfectly tender and melting in the mouth.
5) Pašticada (stewed beef in aromatic sauce) + Merlot Belje
Pašticada is typical for Dalmatia, although the preparation varies a bit in different regions. It’s a nightmare for inexperienced cooks because it takes a lot of time and effort to make it. But a real delicacy for those eating it, especially in combination with homemade gnocchi.
6) Fritule (fritters) + Muškat žuti, Muškat Ruža
Another Dalmatian favourite, fritule are a simple traditional dessert, deep-fried aromatic dough balls. Rum, raisins, vanilla, lemon and orange zest give them a special festive flavour. Vanilla and berry sauce take them to a whole new level.