Hubby has been asking me to make Dolmades for the longest time (it is one of his favorites) and so I finally gave in one day. I don't mind making stuffed grape leaves. I like them too. The thing is - every grape leaf we have tried was different! Some are stuffed with rice, with couscous, with lamb, with herbs added, etc. The possibilities are endless!
I decided to make mine using ground pork. It would have been great if I had fresh grape leaves, but since I don't have a vineyard (hmmmm......), I used bottled grape leaves. So I toiled away (no kidding!) to prepare this special dish for hubby. Oh, you should have seen the look on his face when he saw what dinner was for that night... you'd think he won the lottery.
A quick note, though. We learned that dolmades is good when freshly cooked - not so as leftovers. The grape leaves dry up when you heat it. So make a small batch. Or a big one, but invite friends over!
What you need:
1 jar (1 lb) grape leaves
1.25 pound ground pork
6 cups beef broth
1 cup bulgur wheat
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons minced onion
1 teasoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
dash of dried oregano
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
What to do:
Carefully remove grape leaves from the jar. Fill a large pot with water (enough to cover the leaves entirely) and boil for about 20 minutes. This is to wash the brine off the grape leaves. Remove from heat and let cool.
Meanwhile, cook bulgur wheat according to package directions. Set aside to cool.
In a bowl, combine pork, cooked bulgur wheat, garlic, onion, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix well (use your hands!).
Take a piece of grape leaf and place it on a flat surface. Make sure there are no holes - if there are, try to patch it up by putting a smaller leaf on top of it. A whole grape leaf is big, so you can also cut it in half. Place about a tablespoonful of the meat mixture on the leaf. Fold the sides inward, then cover with the top part (the one nearest you) and roll (see pics). Continue doing so until you have used all your meat (or grape leaves).
Put the dolmades in a shallow pan (you can stack them - don't be scared!) and cover with a plate. This is so the grape leaves would not unravel. Pour enough broth to touch the surface of the plate. Add lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Cook on low heat for an hour. Serve hot!
Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:
1. Grape leaves are so delicate - handle with care!
2. Don't have bulgur wheat? Use couscous or rice.
3. Fresh grape leaves are always the best. If using fresh, you should also boil it, much like the bottled grape leaves.
4. Ground beef or lamb can be used in lieu of pork.
5. Some low-quality bottled grape leaves are "stringy" - avoid these.