Monday, June 03, 2013

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Stuffed Grape Leaves have been a part of nearly every get together on my husband's side of the family since we started dating back in high school.  Back then my mother-in-law used to hide a single toothpick inside one of the grape leaves and everyone would gather around the table to eat and anxiously wait for someone to find the lucky grape leaf.  Now that my kids are old enough to safely play this little game I followed suit this time and hid two toothpicks for them.  The kids were delighted with the game and they each "happened" to find a toothpick.  Now that they have each had a chance to find one I'll have to make it a little trickier and bury one toothpick a little deeper next time.  That way they'll have to eat a little more and wait a little longer to finish the game!
Traditionally this dish is enhanced by adding leftover lamb bones to the bottom of the pot before layering in the grape leaves, but I often make this without to get a lighter dish with a cleaner flavor.  By all means, add them back in if you desire.

Stuffed Grape Leaves
1 jar grape leaves in brine
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt

1 to 1 1/2 pounds minced lamb or beef (any lean cut works)
1 cup rice
1/2 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl.   Lay a couple of grape leaves on a cutting board and trim the stems off.  Place a teaspoon or two of the filling on each grape leaf and roll each one up like a burrito.  Repeat with remaining leaves until filling runs out.  You should be able to get at least 60 or 70 medium sized rolls.  Melt a tablespoon of clarified butter (or a mixture or regular butter and a bit of olive oil) in the pot.  Add a teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and allspice, and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice.  Remove from heat and lay a few grape leaves in the bottom of a large heavy pot.  Layer the rolled grape leaves in even layers into the pot.  Add enough water to just cover the the rolls and invert a plate on top of the rolls to keep them submerged.  Bring to a boil and then turn to low and simmer for 45-60 minutes.
*I often bring the water to a boil and then place the pot in a 350°F oven for an hour or so and bake it alongside a pot of this rice.  These go well with lamb chops and a side of cucumber yogurt sauce.

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