Tue Sep 2, 2014
After tackling merguez—a Moroccan lamb sausage that required a lot of spices, a hefty time commitment, and some frustration working with finicky sheep casings—I wanted my next sausage endeavor to be quick and easy. I found that in cevapi, a Balkan uncased sausage that, in my experience, tastes mainly of just meat, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Of course, it couldn't be quite so simple.
As I looked into origins and recipes, I found no clear path to follow in making it. The diverse states in the Balkan region—Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, and Macedonia, to name a few—each lay claim to their own nuanced versions on this finger-sized sausage, utilizing different combinations of meats and spices. So I decided to find my own favorite version of cevapi by building it from the ground up, creating variations until I struck meaty gold with the best one possible.
This cevapi journey began with finding the right base for the sausage, which left me making three different meat mixtures—one all beef chuck, one half beef and half lamb, and one that was equal parts ground beef, lamb, and pork. In the end, the richness of 50/50 split between beef and lamb won out against the more simple 100% beef version and the comparatively muddled flavor of the three meat combo.
For the seasonings, I kept things simple and traditional with grated onion, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper. The one addition beyond that was a bit of a wild card—baking soda. I saw a bunch of cevapi recipes call for this somewhat unusual ingredient, and I wondered why. So I tried out batches with and without baking soda and found those with it had a softer and more cohesive texture with a little springiness that was more reminiscent of a sausage, while those without it had a coarser, more burger-like texture. Since these are technically sausages, I felt the baking was a good call here to make them as sausage-like as possible.
After all the meats were mixed I formed the sausage into the required shape: approximately a finger's length and 3/4-inch in diameter. Oh what a joy it was to make this uncased sausages—no dealing with temperamental casings or having to clean a large sausage stuffer afterwards.
The one constant I kept in all the variations of cevapi I ended up making—there were six different recipes total—was grilling. All off the uncased "links" were cooked over hot coals until browned on all sides and just cooked through. This took a total of about eight minutes, two minutes per side, over a medium-high fire.
The final cevapi were simple, but not understated. They had a hefty flavor to begin with thanks to the fatty chuck and rich lamb, and the minimal seasonings were enough to give them the distinct garlic and onion notes required without overpowering the meat. The recipe I landed with may not represent any one nation or town's distinct version, but it was certainly some of the tastiest cevapis I've ever had, and I'm confident that the final recipe will go over just as well with all you Meatwavers, as well. I served mine with the traditional accompaniments of Serbian lepinje bread, minced onion, and the roasted red pepper and eggplant sauce avjar (lookout for more on that next week).
- Prep Time:
- 20 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 8 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 28 Minutes
- 4-6 servings
- 3/4 pound ground beef
- 3/4 pound ground lamb
- 3 tablespoons finely grated onion
- 1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- In a medium bowl, mix together beef, lamb, onion, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, and baking soda by hand until thoroughly combined.
- Form meat mixture into finger-length sausages 3/4-inch in diameter.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill sausages over medium-high direct heat until well browned on all sides and just cooked through, about 8 minutes total. Remove to a serving tray or plates, let rest for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.