Beef Sirloin with Cream Sauce (Svíčková na Smetaně)
I discovered svíčková na smetaně (pronounced: sveech-kova nah smet-ah-nyeh), often shortened to svíčková, in advance of my recent trip to Prague. It’s one of the most popular dishes in Czech cuisine and like many other Czech dishes, svíčková is a meat-and-gravy dish best served with bread dumplings (houskový knedlíky). While Czech cuisine is known for being meat-centric and having few vegetables, the svíčková gravy is actually a purée of root vegetables. This is a welcome serving of vegetables (never mind that it’s accompanied by sirloin beef, bacon and heavy cream!). By just eating svíčková in a restaurant you would never know the gravy had veggies, an interesting little discovery that you would only find by researching or cooking it yourself.
I cooked this recipe ahead of my trip to Prague and I’m happy to report that the taste was very comparable to the svíčková served in local restaurants. In some cases, I thought my homemade svíčková was actually better, in large part because I used a more premium cut and larger portion of beef.
Beef Sirloin with Cream Sauce
Svíčková na Smetaně
2 Tbsp oil
4 slices bacon, cut into half inch pieces
2 – 2.5 lb beef sirloin roast (or tenderloin; I used top sirloin cap)
1 large onion, diced
4 carrots, shredded
1 parsnip, shredded
1 turnip, shredded
1 celeriac (celery root), shredded
1 cup heavy cream (35%)
4 cups water
2 bay leaves
4 allspice berries
salt and pepper to taste
cranberry sauce to garnish
whipped cream to garnish
lemon slices to garnish
Set oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare the sirloin roast by cutting slits into the roast and stuffing with bacon (approx two slices). Season with salt and pepper. On the stove top, heat oil in dutch oven and sear all sides of the sirloin on high heat until brown. Remove sirloin from dutch oven and set aside.
In the dutch oven, with sirloin juices, add the remaining bacon and saute for a couple minutes until starting to brown. Then add onion and saute until starting to brown. Add shredded carrot, parsnip, turnip and celery root and saute for several minutes until soft. Return the sirloin to the dutch oven and add four cups of water, bay leaves, allspice berries and a couple pinches of salt. Cover and braise the beef with in the oven with vegetables for about 2 hours, until beef is tender and able to break apart with a fork.
Once beef is cooked, remove from dutch oven and remove allspice berries and bay leaves. Blend the vegetables and liquid with an immersion blender or cool and blend in a food processor until smooth. Return the blended svíčková gravy to the stove on low-medium heat. Add 1 cup of heavy cream to the sauce. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Serve sliced sirloin with svíčková gravy, bread dumplings and garnish with whipped cream, cranberry sauce and lemon wedges.
– This recipe resulted in a rich, creamy and somewhat sweeter-than-expected svíčková gravy. Upon first serving this dish, I found the gravy a bit too rich and thought about reducing the amount of cream and/or bacon slices in the future. However, I found that adding some acidity (via the lemon slices) reduced the richness and I also found that the richness subsided the next day when eating leftovers.
– The amount of water used in this recipe is higher than others I’ve seen and resulted about 5-6 cups of extra svíčková gravy. However, the liquid-to-vegetable ratio appears correct and you wouldn’t want the consistency of the gravy any thicker. Extra gravy can be frozen and used to make svíčková again by adding to a simple braised beef. I used the extra gravy by braising beef in a pressure cooker (I used an Instant Pot) which resulted in tender beef and a good overall outcome.
– Other recipes I’ve seen call for marinating the beef overnight with lemon or vinegar and suggest that this is the proper method for preparing this dish. This is something to experiment with in the future.