Serbian dish Palacinke sa Mesom is a dish to be celebrated long after the holidays.
Just about everyone has a treasured recipe preciously handled amongst families. It captures memories of cherished gatherings, bridging age, cultural and other divides timelessly shaping and searing our collective history. For me that dish is Palacinke sa Mesom, Serbian for pancakes with meat. It’s composed of meat filled layers of crepe style pancakes, memorable as the individual from whom it was passed down — my late father in law Dr. John Lastavica. John was a man of unique talents and temperament whose wisdom I relished and continue to savor even years later. You can read more about him here:
Serbs, and other similar Orthodox members including John, follow the Julian calendar, recognizing Christmas, New Year’s and Easter 13 days after the more widely recognized Gregorian calendar year. I’m sharing his recipe for the first time online. It is written partially in English and partially in Serbian.
Much like the man, Palacinke Sa Mesom is a great resilient recipe. It is easily adaptable and substitution friendly. Think of it as a kind of lasagna with pancakes. Ground and chopped meats are layered between unsweetened pancakes (make them thin like crepes, but remember no sugar!) and hen the dish is oven baked. In one variation sour cream covers the assembled dish prior to baking. This dish works particularly well for using leftover meats like hamburger, sliced turkey and of course bacon!
- 5 eggs
- 1 lb. flour, (15 Tbsp)
- 1 pint of milk
- pinch of salt
- butter for cooking
Instructions for the pancakes
- Whisk your egg, add flour, whisk more, add milk and add a little salt.
- Mix continuously to remove all bubbles.
- Heat the pan with butter.
- Pour a small ladle of batter and spread quickly in a pan to make pancakes as thin as you can. As soon as one is done (try to avoid burning pancakes) bake another.
- Set aside for later use. Try to make between 12 and 15 pancakes AND resist the urge to eat them.
Meat Filling Ingredients:
- 3 yellow onions
- 2/3 quart sour cream (or yogurt if you are watching what you eat, or half and half mixed with cheese) keep the rest for later.
- 2 pounds of preferred ground meat (how about that for flexible!) Some options include: ½ ground ham ½ hamburger OR ½ breakfast sausage, ½ hamburger OR ½ sliced turkey (cut into small pieces), ½ hamburger
- ½ to 1 pound of bacon
- Salt and pepper
- Oil or the bacon fat you recover while cooking
- Optionally add cooked mushrooms to the meat layers.
Meat Filling Cooking Instructions:
- Slice bacon into 2 inch by 2 inch slices and cook in large skillet.
- Recover the fat as you cook.
- Cut the onions into small pieces.
- Cook in a large skillet or pan until the onions are translucent using the bacon fat.
- In a large skillet or Dutch oven, cook ground meats until meat is no longer pink.
- Drain in a colander.
- Let meat cool a little.
- In a Dutch oven or large bowl, mix cream, onions, meats. The mixture should not be too liquid, like a cream.
Instructions for final assembly:
- Find a 2 quart Pyrex type dish or oven friendly dish.
- Place first crepe at the bottom of dish.
- Place a layer of meat filling over crepe.
- Repeat assembly until you run out of pancakes or meat or room in the dish.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.
Serve directly from the dish or if the pancake structure feels satisfactorily sturdy, use a knife to separate the edge of the pancakes from the side of the dish, put a plate on top of the structure and invert onto plate.
You can also spread more sour cream after baking or sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
Palacinke Sa Mesom offers the perfect opportunity to try out your best mustard. My favorite is Pommery Meaux Mustard (which has the advantage of turning the jar into a piggy bank when done). Pickles complement this dish just as well.
I hope you enjoy this recipe on Serbian Christmas or any other time of year.
Here’s to you, John!
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