Labor Day is usually a good time for BBQ, but I recently cooked some pulled pork and ribs. I simply didn’t have the urge to make BBQ again so soon. I also recently made hamburgers, hot dogs, and Chicago-style deep dish pizza, so those American standards were out too. I wanted to cook something different.
There’s a popular dish throughout the Balkans that’s similar to gyros called cevapi (or ćevapčići). It’s the street food of the region. My father-in-law is Croatian, so I’ve had it a few times over the years. The method below was cobbled together by combining my father-in-law’s recipe with several others that I found online. It’s not “authentic” since it doesn’t have a handful of Croatian MSG—a.k.a. Vegeta—in it, but I was pleased with the results nonetheless.
- 1 pound ground beef (80% lean)
- 1/2 pound ground lamb
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 3 garlic gloves, microplaned
- 1/2 small, sweet onion, grated
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
- 2 teaspoons coarse-ground black pepper
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½–1 teaspoon cayenne (to taste)
I doubled the recipe above so we’d be able to freeze some leftovers. It’s a chore to clean the sausage grinder/stuffer whether you make 1 pound or 4, so it makes sense to go big or go home.
I’ve found that the secret to good sausage is to grind the mixture at least twice. I usually buy the meat already ground, mix everything in a bowl by hand, partially freeze it, and then grind everything again with the seasonings included. During the second grind, I add the extruder to the grinder. That way, I just have to cut the sausage into links as it comes out.
I didn’t think to take a picture until everything was mixed. I spread it on a baking tray so it would freeze faster. This step is crucial. Grinding lukewarm meat in a KitchenAid Grinder Attachment is an exercise in futility. Another tip is to freeze the grinder as well and then spray some cooking oil in it before adding the cold meat.
Here’s the grinder/extruder set-up. I did the stuffing/grinding while the wife cut and arranged the sausages on lightly oiled parchment paper.
These are the cevapi we saved for later. We put them in the freezer on the tray. They won’t stick together once they’re frozen, so you can just divide them into zip top bags.
A lot of people grill their cevapi, but I wanted to fry them in their own fat to preserve the flavor. I cooked them over medium heat in a pre-heated cast iron pan on the side burner of my grill.
Check out the crust on these guys. Great flavor and texture.
Traditionally, cevapi are served in lepinje (an airy flatbread) with raw onions and kaymak (a spreadable cheese). We have a place down the street that makes really good pita, so we just dropped by and picked some up for a couple of bucks. It’s not the same thing, but I didn’t feel like baking. I can’t get my hands on any kaymak, so we served our cevapi with some homemade tzatziki, added a little ajvar (red pepper spread—Trader Joe’s sells a very good version), and garnished with heirloom tomatoes from our garden. We basically used the cevapi to make gyros.
This was really good. After tasting it, I made some updates to the recipe that are reflected above. This is going in the permanent rotation.