Citizens, a recent article extolled the virtues of Serbian gastronomy, and with good reason – the pioneering visionary that alone is TFD has visited this amazing country and has known of its excellent food scene for several years now! One of the more surprising dishes I tried while in Belgrade (“The White City” in Serbian) was this familiar-looking yet uniquely flavored dish, known as Pljeskavica!
Pljeskavica is a grilled dish of spiced meat patty mixture made from differing ratios of pork, beef or lamb that is a national dish of Serbia, also popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
The name for these meat patties comes from pljesak, a word meaning “to clap the hands,” the motion used to form these thin, large burgers.
It is a main course served with onions, kajmak (milk cream), ajvar (relish), and urnebes (spicy cheese salad), either on the plate with side dishes, or with lepinja (flatbread, as a type of hamburger).
Recently, Pljeskavica has gained popularity elsewhere in Europe and is served in a few speciality fast food restaurants in Germany, Sweden, and Austria. Varieties include the “Leskovac Pljeskavica” (Leskovačka pljeskavica) very spicy with onions, “Šar Pljeskavica” (Šarska pljeskavica) stuffed with kačkavalj cheese, “Hajduk Pljeskavica” (Hajdučka pljeskavica) of beef mixed with smoked pork meat, and “Vranje Pljeskavica” (Vranjanska pljeskavica).
According to my dear friend Lazar, a veritable fountain of knowledge and pride in his home country:
“If you’re buying a pljeskavica (or “pljeska” in colloquial) as a street food in Serbia, there are a few types. A regular one doesn’t contain cheese unless you add it as a condiment once it’s ready to eat (which some people do, turning it into a cheeseburger of sorts). The version that does contain cheese, bacon, etc. that is the closest to what your recipe describes is a so called gourmet pljeskavica (“gurmanska pljeskavica” or just “gurmanska” in colloquial).”
Lazar even called several places in Belgrade that specialize in this dish, which helped me narrow down the proper cheese selections for the patty! As always, I remain indebted to his deep knowledge about his home country and offer my great appreciation for his efforts on behalf of TFD Nation!
To make this recipe authentically, you’re going to need some special ingredients. First, you will want to get your hands on some of the best dry-aged ground beef you can get your hands on. This serves a purpose – the meat is typically aged/fermented for anywhere from 2-30 days before being used, so using dry-aged beef that has already been aged appropriately cuts a big step out of the process. It’s also just delicious, so please do seek it out from a good butcher!
Next, you will need some Serbian bacon to make this – thankfully, you can buy it here. You’ll also want to get your hands on some Kashkaval cheese, which may be purchased here – I do recommend easier-to-find alternatives if you are so inclined. The bun is brushed – in the classic recipe – with fat from a Mangalitsa pig, also known as the Wooly Pig. The fat from this pig is universally acknowledged as the finest on the planet and thankfully you can buy rendered Mangalitsa lard from here.
Lastly, you’ll need some of the famed Serbian vegetable condiment known as ajvar for the “burger” – you can buy a good brand here.
This is a delicious addition to your recipe repertoire, !
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- 300g dry-aged free-range beef mince
- 100g heritage breed ground pork
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 70g Serbian bacon or the best slab bacon you can find
- 70g diced Kashkaval cheese or substitute 35g diced Gouda cheese and 35g diced Emmenthaler cheese
- 1 tsp. hot homemade paprika
- 2 tbsp. onions, diced
- Bread dip sauce:
- 1 tsp. mangalitsa fat – if unavailable, use regular pork fat
- 2 tbsp. chicken soup
- ½ tsp. hot Hungarian paprika
- ⅓ tsp. white pepper
- For serving:
- 1 Serbian somun bread, if unavailable, use naan bread
- Whole green onions
- Chopped raw onion
- Heirloom tomato slices
- Ajvar vegetable condiment
- 1 tbsp. young homemade Serbian kajmak, made from:
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 4 ounces (1 stick) butter
- 4 ounces ricotta
- 4 ounces sour cream
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- black pepper to taste
- First of all, prepare the meat. The fermentation period can be from 2 days to 30 days, the longer the better. Mix the dry-aged beef mince and ground pork with 1 tps. baking soda and 1 tsp. salt. Knead the meat.
- Cover with towel and leave it in your fridge for 2-30 days. Knead it every day. If using dry-aged beef, you can get away with 2-5 days aging. If not, go with as long as you can up to 30 days.
- Slice and dice Serbian bacon (you can replace it with regular slab bacon, but the taste won’t be the same), and mix it into the patty. Slice and add in the cheese plus the hot paprika and diced onions. Knead again.
- Cover with towel and let it rest for 1 hour.
- For the bread dip sauce, preheat a pan over low heat.
- Add mangalitsa fat and chicken soup, stir well.
- Add paprika and white pepper, then stir and mix well.
- Cut Serbian somun bread or naan in half lengthwise and dip both halves in the sauce.
- Cover your barbecue and cutting board with oil.
- Heat a grill, indoor grill, broiler or skillet. Using slightly dampened hands, divide meat mixture into 6 portions. Form into thin patties, 9 inches by ½ inch or about the size of a small dinner plate.
- Cook pljeskavice about 7 minutes per side.
- Grill buns for 1 min.
- Take the bottom bun, and cover it with 1 tbsp. kajmak.
- Place the patty on it, then cover with top bun.
- Serve with green onions or chopped raw onion, tomatoes, and ajvar with Serbian potato salad, fries or cole slaw on the side.
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