Two Croatian Easter recipes from celebrity chef Johnny Sheehan


April 22, 2022 – A look at two Croatian Easter recipes paired with Dalmatian Zinfandel and Plavac Mali by Chef Johnny Sheehan of Salt Raw Bar + Fine Cuisine and Leena’s Kitchen in Plymouth, MA.

Chef Johnny Sheehan of Salt Raw Bar + Fine Cuisine and Leena’s Kitchen in Plymouth, MA, the town where the Mayflower landed on Plymouth Rock, was so inspired by the wines of Croatia that he created several food pairing dinners -wines with Croatian wines, the newest with 9 dishes and wines.

Here are two of his recipes to pair with Tribidrag (aka Zinfandel) and Plavac Mali (descendant of Zinfandel), both from the Dalmatian wine region, known for its 83 native varieties.

Both recipes are perfect for spring and so festive they can be used as Easter recipes – Plate of Lamb and Beef Cheek Ravioli. We also added a wine which he paired with his rather complex dessert. All three wines are from the fully organic Komarna appellation, Croatia’s newest appellation with a perfect view of the Pelješac Bridge. Živjeli!

Plate of Lamb

Chef Johnny uses multiple parts of the animal and multiple cooking techniques to create this plate of lamb. The dish is made up of three components – the tenderloin, the striploin, the belly and the bones for the broth. The tenderloin is pan-fried and drizzled with butter. The strip loins are rubbed in a butter made from roasted garlic, puree of anchovy fillets, shallots, fresh herbs of thyme and rosemary, and dried mushroom powder. The belly is fried. The bones are roasted and made into a broth with wine, tomato paste, herbs, spices and mirepoix.

At the restaurant, each plate contains a portion of tenderloin, pan-fried striploin, fried belly and a portion of blitva na lešo (mashed potatoes with Swiss chard and olive oil), lamb demi-glace , fresh herbs, fried potato and crispy onion rings.

Learn how to make a simplified version of this restaurant dish below – pair it with this Tribidrag from Rizman! Živjeli!


  • 8 lamb chops, salt and pepper
  • 2oz. vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • half a small shallot, chopped
  • ½ cup of good red wine
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 half stick of unsalted butter

Photo: Croatian Premium Wine Imports, Inc.


  1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil then sear the lamb chops seasoned with salt and black pepper. Brown on each side to medium-rare (an internal temperature of 120°F).
  2. Remove the chops and add the garlic, shallot and herbs. Stir quickly to keep it from burning just long enough to soften the garlic and shallot and bring out the oils in the herbs. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and reduce until almost dry, add the chicken broth and the butter. Reduce by swirling the pan until a nice shiny sauce forms. Do not reduce too much as the sauce will break up and become greasy (if it breaks you can add a little more broth and reduce again). Season with salt and pepper.

Blitva na lešo (mashed potatoes and Swiss chard)A plate of food and wine Description automatically generated with medium confidence


  • 4 medium to large golden potatoes
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and crumpled
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot, small dice
  • 6 ounces olive oil, preferably Croatian
  • 4 oz. Milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Photo: Croatian Premium Wine Imports, Inc.


  1. In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes with salt until they break apart. Filter the water and set it aside.
  2. Heat a large sauté pan, preferably with high sides, over medium-high heat. Add half the olive oil then the garlic and shallots. Season with salt and pepper until translucent.
  3. Add the Swiss chard and season again with salt to remove moisture from the greens. Lower the heat and cook until they are completely softened and the olive oil and natural juices combine.
  4. Add the potato, milk and the rest of the olive oil. Smash together incorporating all the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Beef ravioli with Plavac Mali

If lamb isn’t your forte, maybe this Braised Beef Pasta will be. For this recipe, the beef cheek is slowly braised in cherry juice, chicken broth, wine, aromatic vegetables, herbs and spices. At the restaurant, the finished beef cheek is shredded and folded into fresh spinach ravioli, then finished in a sauce made with reduced braising liquid, sautéed garlic and shallots, and butter. When preparing the dish at home, you will use thick pappardelle.

Both dishes (restaurant dish and house dish) are topped with paški sir cheese from the Croatian island of Pag. Pair it with Plavac Mali from Terra Madre! Živjeli!

Braised Beef Pasta


  • 2 lbs end of rib or beef shank
  • 16 oz. black cherry juice
  • 24 oz. chicken stock
  • 6 oz. dry white wine – Croatian Pošip
  • 1 medium sized onion, diced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • spices: a sachet of thyme, parsley, bay leaf, 5 black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds

Photo: Croatian Premium Wine Imports, Inc.


  1. In a Dutch oven or braiser of your choice, sear the beef until browned on all sides. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, removing any that remains at the bottom of the pan.
  2. Add vegetables, juice, broth and sachet. Bring to a boil.
  3. Cover your pan and transfer to a 300°F oven. Bake 1h45. Beef should be cooked until tender. If beef is undercooked, continue to cook in 15 minute increments until cooked through.
  4. Remove the beef and strain the liquid to reserve for the pasta sauce.

Pan sauce and pasta


  • 3 oz. olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 small sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 16 oz. reserved braising liquid
  • ½ the shredded braised beef (reserve the rest for another recipe or two rounds of the same)
  • 3 oz. Butter without salt
  • 1 tablespoon of mascarpone or fresh cream
  • 1 lb pappardelle pasta
  • 4 oz. pasta water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated paški sir cheese (or hard sheep’s cheese)
  • sprig of fresh basil


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil to cook the pasta. Cook pasta until al dente.
  2. At the same time, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then the garlic and the shallot. Season with salt and pepper and cook until translucent and aromatic. Add the chopped herbs, stirring quickly. Add braising liquid and beef and bring to a simmer.
  3. Place in the butter and mascarpone or crème fraîche, reducing the liquid to emulsify.
  4. Add the al dente pasta and cooking water. Simmer together, working the pasta in the pan until the starches in the pasta thicken the sauce into a lovely creamy creation. Season again with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly grated cheese and basil.


A glass of wine next to a bowl of ice cream Description automatically generated with low confidenceAnd as if we had room for a dessert, Chef Johnny created a small chocolate cake, with wild berry mousse, chocolate ganache, powdered strawberries and fresh cream, and paired it with Volarević Plavac Mali Gold 2016 Edition. This recipe can be “a little tricky” for home kitchens, so we suggest pairing this reserve and potent Plavac Mali with dark chocolate – either the chocolate or a dark chocolate dessert.

Don’t forget to decant all Dalmatian reds for an hour or two – especially those you accompany with desserts.

Enjoy the festivities with the family. Živjeli!

Recipes courtesy of Chef Johnny Sheehan, Salt Raw Bar + Fine Cuisine and Leena’s Kitchen in Plymouth, MA.; photos courtesy of Croatian Premium Wine Imports, Inc.

Presented by Coravin. To purchase these wines, click on the Coravin Wine Shop links in the article.

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