Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Stuffed Grape Leaves

While gathering the ingredients for the fermented pickles I got a jar of grape leaves. I only needed a few for the pickles so now I had a whole bunch of grape leaves left over. I've never made stuffed grape leaves, but what the heck? Here's a good enough reason to give the little rascals a try.
Google came through for me again when I found this recipe for Lebanese Rolled Stuffed Grape Leaves.
Now, I've got to tell you how I look at recipes... I see them as guidelines. If I want to replicate the dish exactly or if there is a necessity for something in particular, then I follow the recipe closely. But many times I use a recipe as a general guide rather than as a strict formula. Such was the case here.
Here are the basic ingredients for this recipe:
16 oz. jar grape leaves or fresh grape leaves
3/4 c. long grain uncooked rice
3 tbsp. fresh dried mint
1 c. water
2 lbs. ground lamb, beef or pork
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
3 lg. garlic cloves
2-3 lemons
I picked up some ground beef at the store so we're good there. I don't care for mint or cloves that much so those two were axed. I added onion, garlic, and oregano to the meat as they all sounded better than relatively plain meat.

Everything got mixed into the meat and it was looking a lot like meatloaf.

I wrestled a handful of grape leaves out of the jar and got them rinsed off and ready to wrap.

Now came the fun part: wrapping the meat into the leaves.

And into the pan they go!

I poured the garlic, lemon juice, water mixture over the pan's contents and set them on the range. After bringing things to a boil I reduced the heat to a low simmer, covered the pan, and set the timer for one hour.
After about 45 minutes I tested to see if the grape leaves were tender. They were so I removed the pan from the heat and got out the plate.

When I cut one open I could see that the meat and rice are both cooked. 
I am happy to report success with our first stuffed grape leaves! Between Fayme and I there were only about half a dozen left to put away.
Things I'll try next time:
Ground lamb would really be good in this. The ground beef was a little bland.
A little less lemon juice. I used 2 1/2 lemons and it was just a little bit too tart.
I may try chicken stock instead of water, that feels like it would be a good idea.

This was a really good dinner and it was fun to make. I got to try something I've never made before and it's always nice when that sort of endeavour turns out well. Fayme mentioned that this would be something good to take to pot luck dinners. I absolutely agree with her. If you feel guilty about just bringing a loaf of Trader Joe's bread when you attend a pot luck, give something like this a try. It's way easier than it looks, tastes great, and you'll really impress people with your culinary skills and international flair.

Thanks for reading - Good Cooking!

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