The ‘dacks Meet Dalmatia

10 Aug

I’m a priss.

Much to the boy’s chagrin I hate his idea of camping; tents, the world as my toilet, sleeping bags. My idea of camping is one that I choose to believe Jackie O or Audrey Hepburn or Mary Lou Whitney could get behind.* It includes indoor plumbing and beds (not necessarily in the same building). I like a solid wall between me and the hungry bears and rutting moose. I like a roof to protect me from falling trees.

When the family last year said we were going to spend a week in the ‘dacks** in a cabin I must admit, the priss in me was excited. The Adirondacks are the epicenter of sophisticated camping! Great camps! Adirondack chairs! Chris Craft boats! TR! Yeah, as usual my imagination ran away with the spoon (god I hate it when it does that).

The camp is lovely, very dated, a little grubby, but perfectly acceptable and quite cozy. The boy and I get to stay in the “Doll’s House,” a wee little out-building with a sitting area, a teeny kitchen, a toilet and a bedroom (with a shower in the corner). Last year when my nephew was still a fussy baby, it was a godsend. This year, a little less so.

As we drove into the camp it looked like the apocalypse had come and gone. HUGE trees were down everywhere, the road lined in what promised to become beautiful firewood. The main house had not been spared by the storm. It had been knocked on the roof and lost a few window panes resembling a boxer who had just gone a few rounds.

I’ve often poked gentle fun at a certain friend’s dog who gets so scared by thunderstorms he tries to sleep on your head. After that first night, Lou, I apologize. The thunder was so, well, thunderous, that I was shaking like a leaf. It is amazing how magnified the sound is when it comes down a mountain and travels over a placid lake. It sounded very much like the bowling pins in the legend of Rip Van Winkle.

Happily the next day, the weather was HOT. Last year it was so cold and damp we never went swimming and had to keep a fire going at all times. Not so this year. After one buggy hike i jumped straight into the lake. The hiking was far more strenuous in the heat and humidity, compounded by the constant fear of “widowmakers” (broken tree limbs hanging in upper branches of a tree that can come down at any time with nary a sound).

Besides getting to spend quality time with my mom, step-sister and her little man (aka my nephew), playing with Herr Wally, swimming and going on my step-dad’s sunset booze cruises, I love the cooking (natch). The stove is a delight, truly old school gas (no pilot light) and the huge kitchen is airy, bright and has nice high counter-tops (perfect for my above average height).

The boy and I decided that for our dinner we were going to cook the classic Dalmatian streetfood, Čevapčići (authentic at left, ours below and to the right). We had a jar of Ajvar hanging out in the fridge (sadly something carried home in our carry-on luggage, which judging from today’s events won’t be happening again anytime soon) and I had a rough recipe to work with.

Čevapčići are casingless sausages generally made of pork, lamb and beef. There used to be a decent grocery store in Tupper Lake (the closest town to the camp), but it closed. Tupper Lake has fallen on really hard times but will hopefully be boosted by the new Wild Center there. They have otters!

So this forced us to go to a store called the IGA (we say eh-ga, whereas I think it’s supposed to be called the i.g.a. Check out their site, they have an anthem), and the IGA forced us to make the Čevapčići with only pork and beef (pre-ground and with no indication as to proportions or parts, sigh). We also didn’t have any baking soda, so I used two egg whites to impart lightness. I spiced them more than was called for with some dried herbs I brought back for my mom.

And boy were they delicious! The boy grilled them and we even found a decent stand in for the gorgeous Croatian bread. I served them with olive oil braised summer squashes and new potatoes flavored with sage and raw, minced garlic. The meal was an unabashed hit with everyone but the little man. I think they were too spicy for him (it’s alright, he’ll learn to love the spice). My only complaint was that they were a little dry. The next time I make them I’ll actually be able to choose my meat, I’m sure that will make all the difference.

*I just want it to be known that I have even done my version of camping in the dead of winter up near Ithaca many times which, I think, qualifies me to be a bit prissy.

** Ever wondered why people call the Adirondacks the ‘dacks? Try saying the word with the sad New England inability to pronounce a glottal stop (think people (like myself) who are incapable of saying the word kittens like it actually has “t”s in it’s middle as opposed to “d”s). It curls the tongue into weird yoga positions that tongues don’t like to do, hence the need to shorten the word to ‘dacks.

Head below the jump for the recipe for ‘dacks Meet Dalmatia Čevapčići.

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The ‘dacks Meet Dalmatia Čevapčići

prep time: 1 hour ~ cooking time: 20-30 minutes

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs Ground Meat (any combo of quality Pork, Lamb & Beef)
  • finely minced Garlic to taste (at least 5 cloves, we used almost a whole head I believe)
  • 2 Egg Whites, well whisked
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried Rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried Thyme
  • 1 tsp dried Basil
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • Cayenne Pepper to taste (at least 1 tsp)

To serve:

  • Ajvar
  • 1 sweet Onion, diced
  • any soft, but substantial, yet not too crusty roll, split and toasted

In a bowl combine the garlic, herbs, spices and egg whites. Mix to combine. Add the meat and mix with your hands until well combined. Cover and place in the fridge to chill for at least a half an hour.

Pull the meat out of the fridge and shape into little sausages about the size of your thumb. Place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Return to the fridge to cool for another half an hour.

Meanwhile get your grill started. When nice and hot, grill the Čevapčići. We had a dinky little propane grill that had a hard time retaining heat because it was so darn windy. It took much longer than we had expected to cook the little guys through. You’ll know they’re done when they feel solid.

To serve, take a warm roll, smear with Ajvar, sprinkle with onion, place a few Čevapčići on, place top on, moosh together and chow down!

Dobar Tek!

7 Responses to “The ‘dacks Meet Dalmatia”

  1. Sher August 10, 2006 at 4:27 pm #

    Well–even though you had that awful thunder, it looks really nice! I used to backpack with my husband and I could not sleep. He would immediately fall asleep, but I felt every piece of gravel under my sleeping bag and insolite pad! I like a roof and modern plumbing when I vacation. The Čevapčići looks yummy!

  2. Julie August 10, 2006 at 8:34 pm #

    I’m not into the sleeping on the ground, no plumbing thing. But a rustic cabin sounds delightful, and your Čevapčići sounds great.

  3. Chris August 13, 2006 at 5:03 pm #

    R* and I went to the ‘dacks last fall and I think we’re going back again this year. I too get nervous when things get a little too rustic, but he convinced me to try it and I LOVED it up there and am excited to go back.

  4. s'kat August 17, 2006 at 8:56 am #

    Like you, give me a bed and indoor plumbing any day!! But the Čevapčići would definitely go a long way in making it worthwhile.

  5. ann August 18, 2006 at 6:24 pm #

    it wasn’t bad… but the cevapcici were totally the highlight, well, not really, that was probably watching Wally chase my step-dad while he was kayaking!
    Wally may be a looker, but like so many pretty faces, he’s kinda stupid ;-)

  6. John J. Goddard February 19, 2007 at 1:33 am #

    I hate to split hairs here, especially when you’ve done such a nice job with your čevapčići (and since this post is six months old), but uh… they’re a Bosnian specialty. You’ll definitely find them almost everywhere throughout Croatia – Istra, Lika, Dalmacija, Kordun, Slavonija, etc. – but they were brought by the Ottoman Turks, who had far more success in planting their culture in the Bosna-Herceg hinterland than on the coast. And you will not find many true Bosnian čevapi with pork, since so many Bosnians are Muslims.
    Again, I don’t want to be a food snob here, especialy since you run a really nice blog and I’d probably devour the version you prepared above… but I’m writing a Dalmatian cookbook, and there will be no recipe for čevapčići (or their larger brothers, čevapi) included. If you’re curious about traditional Dalmatian food, I return to Croatia soon to cook in a classic restaurant on one of the islands and I’ll be blogging regularly.

    By the way: I’m told the best čevapčići in New York can be found at a place called Sarajevo.

    Please keep up the good work and don’t take any offense at my clarification.

    OK,
    John

  7. ann February 19, 2007 at 11:58 am #

    John, No offense whatsover, but I will quibble… I was aware they are more Bosnian than Croatian, but… Since we could get them everywhere we went in Dalmatia, including in the Konzum groceries, I’d say the cevapcici have happily planted themselves all over the region, from Vienna (where we saw them too) over to Bulgaria (where a friend’s Bulgarian girlfriend says they make them as well). Much like the hot dog is German and yet the classic street food of New York, it all depends on where you’re first introduced to them

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