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Sunday, 20 May 2012

Croatian Cooking Class In Seattle

This was kind of cool. A blog I came across by accident about woman who attended a "Croatian Cooking" class in Seattle.  Sounded boring, but checked it out anyway. The class was taught by an author in the Seattle area who just also happens to have Croatian in her background, Amy Pennington. This isn't as exciting or involved as my recent post regarding Anthony Bourdaine's visit to Croatia, but still shows how to make some of that easy to make good tasting basic, home made Croatian food, the kind of stuff I grew up on. Good enough for me. A good site for various Croatian recipes in Croatia is, but you'll have to understand Croatian.  (I was going to add some personal opinions about variations on these recipes because this is sort of basic, but decided to just leave it as is)

(Believe me, this is way tastier than that Serbian stuff)

Related: recipe-for-croatian-cevapi-and-cheese-strukle




My grandfather is Croatian, arriving to NYC from Krk - the northernmost island in Croatia. My grandmother is ex-Yugoslavian descent (Slovenian), as well, so I have double eastern European roots and I love it. A few years ago, I decided I HAD to get over to meet all of my family - cousins, aunts and most importantly my barbara Vlado, my grandfathers brother. He was ill and I knew the opportunity wouldn't be around for long. So, I set my mind to it, bought a ticket and took private Croatian lessons for about 9 months in anticipation of a major language barrier. Croatia was awesome. I absorbed as much of the food culture as I could, forced myself to go in bakeries and markets and speak to the bakers and farmers (Ne govorim hrvatski dobro) and walked away with memories of family and food that are seared in my mind. What a gift!

My cousins in Slovenia made mlinci - a toasted and sauteed pasta - for me when I was at their house during grape harvest. After a day digging my heels into the hillside and harvesting grapes for their house wine, we ate a hearty dinner of roast chicken and mlinci. It was mind-blowingly deliciious. I'd never had a dish like this before. It was pasta-like, but so much more. You roll, bake, boil and then saute (in chicken fat from the roast) wide fat noodles and serve them alongside the chicken. They are at once al dente, chewy, crispy and glistening with a bit of schmaltz. My own personal heaven.

I taught a Croatian Cooking Class this week making many other of my families dishes along with the mlinci. I also taught the students how to make strudel - a stretch of dough that ends up being 6 feet long and 4 feet wide - no joke! This pic is the beginning stages. If you would like to take a Croatian Cooking Class with me, please sign up for my newsletter. I only offer home cooking classes via my newsletter and rarely teach out at cooking schools.

It is simple and humble country-style cooking and nothing can compare. Read all about the class and check out this MAJOR EYE CANDY from one of my students who writes the blog Seattle Pastry Girl (@Seatlepastrygrl on Twitter).She did a killer job and it's most def a blog worth checking out.

Croatian Cooking Class -The Pantry At Delancey


Amy Pennington preparing fried fish (smelt)

Remember the Good Fish class I took at The Pantry at Delancey ?  Well it was so spectacular I signed up for another one-Croatian Cooking.  Why Croatian cooking,well, even though I'm not 100% certain of where my relatives emigrated from, I do know (fingers crossed) that is was somewhere in the Croatia-Slovenia-Lithuania-Russia area.  That really narrows it down doesn't it ?  So when I saw this class, I thought great-get back to my roots or something like that. I learned so much in this class. The top 2 items being :#1, I love fried smelt and  #2 I love the Croatian noodles called Mlinci. What I also learned is that our chef instructor, Amy Pennington, is an author,blogger,gardener,chef,teacher,former assistant to Tom Douglas, lover of chicken fat  and a very funny person. Oh and she has a Croatian family. She spent time in Croatia and learned these recipes from the experts !

Addictive fried smelt

The menu for the evening was:

Turnip & Potato Soup - made with leeks,turnips,Yukon gold potatoes,sage and chicken stock
Fried Fishes- Smelt dredged in flour,smoked paprika,salt and pepper and fried in canola oil
Mlinci (those incredible Croatian noodles) & Roast Chicken
Apple Strudel-stretched,rolled and filled with cinnamon,sugar and sliced apples 

Rolling out the dough for Mlinci

Since the whole concept behind The Pantry at Delancey is "community kitchen" that means prepped and cooked by the community -that would be us-willing students. We had our work cut out for us and we had a leader with a clip board  and "to do " list (always a good idea for organizing your meal prep). Roll out the dough for the Mlinci,chop the turnips,chop the onions,break down the chicken,put the soup on, bake the Mlinci,fry the fish,eat the fish (again caution very very addictive),slice the onions,eat some more of the fish ,bake the chicken,boil the Mlinci,fry the Mlinci,stretch the Strudel dough,fill the Strudel,bake the Strudel, drink the wine and sit down to a simple delicious meal prepared by all of us. 

This was no fancy schmancy meal,but this was an incredibly tasty meal and oh so very filling.  I should have walked home from the class to burn off the calories (which with the chicken fat,dough,sugar and everything else had to exceed 4 digit calorie counts !).

Still rolling Mlinci dough

Baked Mlinci, even as a cracker it's pretty good -looks a little scary but don't be put off by appearances

Once it's boiled and then fried in chicken fat -it's so very good !

About those Mlinci - I discovered these bites of deliciousness are made with flour,water,salt and eggs. Once baked they are crisp cracker like discs that you break into pieces and then reconstitute in boiling water. Then fry them in chicken fat-or duck fat (caution cholesterol alert). I found out that they can be served as a main dish with cream or butter, or topped with curd cheese and poppy seeds, and as a dessert when drizzled with honey. Anyway you serve them is going to be noodlelicious !


A recipe from The Pantry at Delancey
Yield: 6 servings
5 cups all purpose flour
2 eggs
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 cups cold water
Fat drippings for frying
Preheat oven to 400F

Place all ingredients except the fat drippings into a kitchen mixer with a dough hook. Knead until the dough comes together completely and forms a smooth ball.  Separate the dough into four even pieces and roll out on floured surface. Roll thin and evenly,about the thickness of tagliatelle noodles.  Place each piece on a sheet pan so that they aren't touching (you will need to use several pans). Bake until golden brown 20- 30 minutes.

Fill a large pasta pot with water and salt and bring to a boil. When Mlinci are cool enough to handle break them into wide noodle like strips-they will probably break into giant taco chip shapes-that is okay. Drop the baked and broken Mlinci into boiling water and cook until al dente, 8-12 minutes.

While those are cooking, add chicken fat (or duck fat) to a cast iron skillet or large heavy saute pan and heat over medium high heat, any liquid will evaporate leaving behind the fat.

Add cooked Mlinci directly to the saute pan or skillet. Keep them in a single layer and let them brown-don't stir them for about 4-6 minutes. Then toss once to brown the other side.  Using tongs, remove Mlinci,shaking off extra fat and add them to the platter you will be serving the chicken (or duck or turkey) on.

Continue to add Mlinci to the skillet or saute pan until finished-add olive oil or butter if you run out of chicken fat. You can deglaze this pan (with Vermouth or white wine) when finished cooking the Mlinci. Then pour that fabulous liquid and brown bits over the Mlinci before serving. Serve immediately then head for the treadmill !

Learning all about breaking down a chicken !

Great idea for roasting- a bed of onions with chicken on top-the onions caramelize--hmm good

Makings for the turnip potato soup-wonderful aromas filled the kitchen

Amy starting to stretch the Strudel dough

It's a team effort to stretch the Strudel

Apples,cinnamon and sugar Strudel filling

Our excellent roast chicken and that heavenly Mlinci-nom nom chicken fat,chewy crispy noodles and onions.

Voila-Apple Strudel-perfect ending to a perfect class

So proud of our chopping skills


Photo from The Pantry at Delancey via Facebook

This was such an enjoyable learning experience, I look forward to my next class there Pates and Terrines:Duck-watch for that adventure in mid-June. That class is described as : "One of our favorite butchers, Sarah Wong, is back with another set of fantastic charcuterie classes! In this hands-on workshop she’ll show you how to make some of her favorite duck-based pâtés and terrines: classic duck confit with new potatoes cooked in duck fat, duck bresaola with Rioja-balsamic gastrique, duck liver pâté with shaved radish and fennel, and mason jar pâté with cherry mostarda." By the time June rolls around I will have worked off the calories from this Croatian meal !

PS:   Amy Pennington is one of those amazing woman you feel blessed to have had contact with.  If you get a chance to take a class from her jump at it. In the mean time you can buy her books: Apartment Gardening or Urban Pantry at Amazon.

About Amy Pennington:

I am an author, gardener and cook. I currently live in Seattle. I am also a speaker, teacher, website creator, TV show host and a handful of other really cool titles that revolve around food. Here is how it all began...

I have always loved food. I grew up on the eastern stretches of Long Island with goats in my front yard and a vegetable patch in back. I got up early to milk and earned first dibs at the cream, which I drank by the cupfuls. We raised and butchered a pig, Maggie, and later fried up her bacon.

As an adult, I worked with some of the best restaurants in the city, and I was surrounded by food every day. It is here where my love of food and an education in biology intersected. I became most interested in where the food I eat comes from. I started shopping at the farmers markets more than once a week. All of my food came from a local food source. I started cooking only with whole foods. And eventually, I needed some room to grow. It wasn't enough that I could get all my food from within a stones throw. I wanted to grow my own.

Growing your own food is a natural extension of eating healthy and eating well. With the knowledge of food miles, the prevalence of chemicals in industrial agriculture and the notion that shipping food halfway around the world is kooky, I launched go go green garden as a way to educate, inspire and enjoy the qualities of locally grown food. I aim to take the guess work out of backyard gardening so everyone can enjoy the fruits of their own labor. And I hope to instill a passion for food that extends well beyond the dirt of our own backyards and in to our kitchens.

I am also a food writer and cook. My freelance work can currently be read in Edible Seattle, SIP Northwest, & My first book, Urban Pantry-Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen, was published in spring of 2010. My second book, Apartment Gardening, will be published in spring of 2011.

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