We like to celebrate our Croatian heritage the Eastern European way– with good food, extended family and a national flag so large you can see it in the old country when we hang it from our balcony.
Our first taste of the Biskupic Croatian heritage came to us via Chicago’s Croatian Fraternal Union’s annual picnic. Garlic roasted lambs on spits and delicious Orahnjača, walnut rolls, lured us to the gathering where Great-Grandpa Vinko, the only one of 11 siblings to leave Croatia, knew everyone. He used to escort us through the park grounds like a local celebrity.
A few years ago, we tagged along with the Appleton Boychoir on their trip to Croatia and met several Biskupic family members, including Vinko’s nephews. Still battered from the War of Independence, which ended in 1995, Croatia boasts a beautiful coastline and its walled city of Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Led by the indomitable Aunt Pat, Vinko’s only daughter and an American judge, we enjoyed our time in Croatia immensely, especially our visits with our Croatian family members.
Most years we celebrate Croatian Independence Day with a party. Due to the hectic nature of our summer this year, we toned it down a bit. Still, Vinnie, Molly and Vince whipped up a Croatian dinner that was so delicious we’ll have to make it next year for guests.
Vinnie’s recipe for his Croatian Potato Dish follows. Honestly, it was so tasty I didn’t need to eat anything else…But I did. Molly made a fresh tzatziki sauce that we served with a boneless roast leg of lamb. Vince prepared the lamb by inserting garlic cloves, rubbing it with olive oil and seasoning it with salt and pepper. He grilled it over indirect heat for about an hour.
We’ll celebrate another Croatian holiday on October 8. If you see the flag hanging from the balcony (and, if you’re anywhere in these lower 48 states you probably will), stop in for a little Croatian hospitality.
In the meantime, here’s Vinnie’s recipe:
Vinnie’s Cheesy Blitvas krumpirom
(Translation: Chard with potatoes) recipe
(Pronounced: Bleetvahs Krewmpeerohm)
2 pounds of Swiss chard
4 peeled and diced potatoes
4 quarts of salt water
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 minced garlic cloves
1 cup of shredded cheese (parmesan, asiago, romano, etc.)
1. Cut off Swiss chard stems and slice the long way like straws. Cut “straws” into 1/2 inch chunks. Chop the Swiss chard leaves into 1/2 inch squares. Wash chopped Swiss chard leaves and stems in a colander and set off to the side.
2.Cook potato chunks in boiling salt water. After 10 minutes, add the chopped chard stems and leaves to the boiling potatoes. Cook for 20 minutes, until the potatoes and chard are tender. Drain in colander.
3. In a large pan cook 4 cloves of minced garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When garlic browns, add potatoes and Swiss chard. Mash the potatoes while they cook with the chard and garlic in the pan.
4. Pour and stir the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil into the pan and season the potatoes and chard with salt and pepper.
5. Finally stir in the cup of shredded cheese until it becomes completely melted in the blitvas krumpirom.