Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

This was my third attempt at making dolmades over the past year or so and I am happy to report success at last.  I have always loved these ever since Uncle Tom and Aunt Evie introduced them to us, but could never quite get it right.  We were at the West Side Market on Saturday and they were charging $7.00 for a half dozen of them so I said… sam hell… I can make those for much less and much better to boot.

Fennel….our new favorite vegetable that makes everything taste good:  (made a risotto on Saturday w fennel, shitakes, cremini and sausage… awesome).

pine nuts.  an essential ingredient in dolmades:

The slightly cooked mixture of onion, fennel, rice, parsley, dill and mint:

rolling them up…

Not the most beautiful things… and they are a lot of work…but they sure taste good.

Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves)

Recipe 99% from Tyler Florence on FoodNetwork.com after looking at lots of recipes.  I also learned from watching quite a few YouTube videos of Greek Grandmas dolmades techniques.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, halved, cored and diced
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 T. finely chopped dill leaves
  • 1 T. finely chopped mint (or 1 t. dried)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 jar grape leaves, rinsed and drained – the big jar
  • 2 lemons, juiced

Directions

To make the filling, coat a large saute pan with 1/4 cup of the oil and place over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel and lemon zest and stir until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the pine nuts and rice, saute for 2 minutes, stirring to coat. Pour in just 1/2 cup of the chicken stock and lower the heat. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 10 minutes. Scrape the parboiled rice mixture into a bowl and add the dill, mint and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool.

Bring a big pot of water to a simmer. Blanch the grape leaves in the hot water for 5 minutes until pliable. Drain then trim the stems and any hard veins from the leaves. Pat dry with paper towels.  The leaves are all really packed tight in the jar.  I found it easiest to separate them by submerging them in water.

To assemble the dolmades, lay a grape leaf on a work surface, shiny-side down. Put 2 tablespoons of the rice filling near the stem end of the leaf. Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and roll up into a cigar – it should be snug but not overly tight because the rice will swell once it is fully cooked. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the roll. Repeat with remaining grape leaves and filling.

Place the dolmades in a large Dutch oven or wide deep skillet, seam-side down in a single layer. Pour the remaining cup of broth, remaining olive oil, and the lemon juice over the dolmades, the liquid should reach halfway up the rolls, add some water if necessary. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the dolmades are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve warm, at room temperature or cool.

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