World Cup Party: Viva Croatia!

Alex Van Buren
Food Features Editor

We’re watching the World Cup with an eye to food (of course). Here’s a kicking dish from a nation whose game is on today. 

Photo credit: StockFood / Weymann, Frank. Illustration credit: Jennifer Fox.

So yes, Mexico is playing Croatia in the World Cup right now. You’ve probably got your green-and-red gear on and you’re eating tacos or molé or some other delicious South-of-the-Border fare because you “stayed home sick” from work.

But if you’re rooting for team Croatia instead, well, good news for those unfamiliar with its cuisine: Their food rules, too. We reached out to pal Marisa Robertson-Textor, former Gourmet staff research chief and a world traveler who has written for publications such as Budget Travel, and who has eaten extensively in Croatia. She remembers her meals there fondly: “The classic Dalmatian (i.e. coastal) dish is grilled branzino with a side of blitva, a mash of potato and Swiss chard. I could eat it every day, all summer long.”

So go start soaking a cedar plank for grilling that branzino, (a.k.a. sea bass) tonight and follow the recipe below, which is similar to the version Robertson-Textor is talking about, and features the sweet, delicate fish quite nicely. 

No cedar plank kicking around? It’s cool. Here’s a get-it-done sea bass recipe with a bright bell-pepper-and-mango salsa. Start the salsa now, and it’ll be ready by the end of game time, just in time for you to brag. 

And no one says you can’t steal a taco from Team Mexico fans when they’re not paying attention—especially if they win. 

Cedar Plank Grilled Loup de Mer (Sea Bass)
from Food52
Serves 4 (depending on size of fish)

1 cedar plank - fish sized
1 whole sea bass - scaled and cleaned
Kosher salt
Olive oil
4 large basil leaves
Thinly sliced tomato
Thinly sliced red onion
Thinly sliced lemon
Kitchen twine
A squirt bottle filled with water (just in case!)

A few hours ahead of cooking, soak your plank in water - you will have to weight it to hold it under. I do mine in the sink with a heavy pot. Heat your grill to HIGH when you are ready to get started.

Rinse the fish and pat it dry. Sprinkle the inside with olive oil and kosher salt.

Line the inside of the fish with the basil leaves, then layer the sliced tomato, onion and lemon. How many slices will depend on the size of the fish.

Salt the outside of the fish, then tie it up with kitchen twine - roast style. Lay it on the plank.

Head out to the grill. Make sure it is VERY hot. Lay the plank / fish on the grill and lower the cover. You are going to want to check every couple of minutes JUST in case the plank isn’t completely soaked - coals and smoke are GOOD, a flaming plank is BAD. That’s where the squirt bottle comes in.

You might want to squirt the bottom part of the plank a couple times in either case to make it smoke up a bit. The smoke adds a TON of great flavor.

When the plank is blackened and the fish is toasty brown on the “up” side, you’re done! (see photo) Bring it in and cut the twine away. If you are a wimp (like me) remove the head and serve!

Caution - the fish I cooked did have a lot of bones so I had to pull the meat out carefully. Just depends on your particular fish …

For more fishy recipes, head to