Czech Cuisine — Svíčková na Smetaně, Beef Sirloin with Cream

The cuisine of the Czech republic is descendent from the food of Bohemian and Moravian Europe — the regions that make up the modern-day nation.  A typical Czech dinner might consist of a soup starter and a main dish of roasted meat and dumplings, all accompanied by the most famous Czech beer, Pilsner (“from Pilsen” in Czech).  We love roasted meats, dumplings, and beer, so we felt like the Czechs deserved at least a qualifying spot in the World Cup of Food.

Czech Republic quick facts:

  • Capital: Prague
  • Population: 10,513,209 (2012 estimate)
  • Notable Czechs: Franz Kafka, Martina Navratilova, Krusty the Klown heckling target Ivan Lendl

After consulting multiple sources on Czech cuisine we saw Svíčková na Smetaně (recipe follows) mentioned a few times as both a very popular dish and representative of what distinguishes Czech food.  A beef sirloin roast is braised in liquid flavored with root vegetables, then that braising liquid is turned into a thick sauce with the help of a little sour cream.  As with most Czech main courses, this one gets served with some kind of dumpling typically.

Svíčková na Smetaně

(adapted from The Czechoslovak Cookbook by Joza Brizova and Czech Tourism’s Czech Specials website)


Note: to serve a greater number, we recommend using a beef loin roast of some kind, following the directions in one of our recipe sources linked above.  The sirloin steak we used was chosen because it would be about right to feed two people; many of the changes of method we made were done to adapt to the different cut of meat.

  • One 3/4 pound beef sirloin steak
  • 2 slices bacon, in one inch pieces
  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • One carrot, peeled
  • 2 ribs celery
  • One turnip, peeled
  • One parsnip, peeled
  • 3/4 medium onion
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup sour cream

First, we peeled and/or washed all the vegetables as needed:


…then ran them through the shredder, making some kind of delicious vegetable confetti:


Next we were ready to prepare the steak.  We would have been content to do nothing special with the meat, but every recipe for Svíčková na Smetaně we found larded the meat in some way.  Since we were adapting the method to work with a steak instead of a roast, we though stuffing bacon into slits would be the way to go.  First we needed to cut slits into both sides of the meat with a sharp paring knife:


…then stuff them with bacon, being careful not to cram too much bacon in to each slit:


To help keep the bacon in place and to give the steak a more uniformly thick shape for even cooking, we decided to tie it tightly with twine around its perimeter:

The infamous jute twine returns.  In this case its sure grip was an asset.

The bacon injected into the beef successfully, the meat was seasoned with salt and pepper and we were ready to put together our braise.  First a heavy pot with a secure lid was heated on medium heat.  The canola oil was added and the steak browned:


After about four minutes the underside was nicely browned and the steak was flipped to brown the other side:


The twine seemed to be doing the job holding the bacon securely in place.  Once the meat was browned on both sides it was removed and held on a plate while we cooked the vegetable confetti in the leftover oil and meat drippings with a little bit of additional salt and pepper:


The vegetables were cooked until they began to release their juices, about three minutes:


…then cooked further until most of those juices had evaporated away.  The beef stock was added and the resulting broth thoroughly stirred, taking special care to scrape the bottom of the pot to incorporate all the brown, delicious bits into the sauce.  The beef was set on top of the sauce and the pot was ready to braise:


The lid was put on the pot, the heat turned down to low, and the dish was allowed to simmer for one hour.  At that point the meat was tender and ready to be removed:


The sauce was pureed in the blender until smooth then introduced to the sour cream:


…and stirred until combined:


The meat was sliced and served alongside bread dumplings, both topped with the beefy root vegetable cream sauce:


We picked up some valuable insights on Czech cuisine with this dish, as well as some great general food ideas.  Neither of us was confident that beef sirloin was a good braising candidate but the result was moist, tender, and flavorful.  Even better, the root vegetable puree was very impressive and would make a great soup as well as a delicious accompaniment to this dish.


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