Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolma) are one of my Hubby’s favorites. So, as I am dabbling into more ethnic cuisine, I thought I would give them a go. Thankfully, the Aladdin Market just opened in my area. Honestly, I needed some professional help. Although, I kind of knew a little bit about them, I was quite unsure how to actually cook these packets of love. Happily, the ladies at the market came to my rescue. They pointed me in the right direction as far as what brand of jarred grape leaves I needed. Also, they gave me a few pointers on not only how to prepare them, but what ingredients would make for the perfect filling.
Naturally, I will be using a combination of beef and rice. However, you can absolutely make them with rice only. If you do make them vegetarian, then I would suggest substituting the chicken stock with vegetable stock. Additionally, I wanted a bit more flavor, so I decided to use an 80/20 ground beef mixture.
Before you begin, you must understand making Stuffed Grape Leaves is a Labor of Love. For those of you that have made Cabbage Rolls before, you know exactly what I mean. However, if you are starting with jarred grape leaves, you do not have to worry about cooking the leaves. From prep to plate, you are looking at a good three hours. This recipe will yield approximately forty Stuffed Grape Leaves. Be sure to check out the short video I created on TikTok by clicking here. This will give you a great idea of the process. If you have not yet signed up for this social media platform, use my code 5SSIS800K0H06 to create an account.
HOW TO PREPARE THE GRAPE LEAVES
Easily enough, if you are using jarred grape leaves, rinse off the brine. Peel the leaves apart and lay out on a flat surface. Surprisingly, the grape leaves are not as delicate as you may think. You will definitely find a few that are torn. These are great to use to line the bottom of the pot. Honestly, if I had more filling, I could have made triple the amount with the remaining leaves. Stuffed Grape Leaves are also very inexpensive to prepare. One jar of grape leaves cost under $6. All in, was well under $20, including the pita.
Speaking of pita, if you feel a little extra fancy, use my recipe for Homemade Pita Bread, and make your own!
Want to use fresh grape leaves? Click here to read this article from What’s Cooking America. It’s all you need to know about how to use, and prep fresh grape leaves for Dolma.
HOW TO PREPARE THE FILLING
Pour the uncooked rice into a bowl and fill with water. Allow the rice to soak for at least fifteen minutes. This can be done while you are preparing the rest of the filling.
As you may know by now, I am not a huge fan of onion. Honestly, the amount I included in this recipe was just perfect. Too much onion can overpower a dish. You do not want this to happen with Stuffed Grape Leaves. Grate the onion and garlic. Add to a pan with the olive oil, and while the butter is melting. Allow the garlic and onions to just soften. Sprinkle in the five spice, nutmeg, cumin, and allspice.
Add the meat to a large bowl. Season generously with kosher salt and a touch of black pepper. Add in the onion mixture and the fresh chopped herbs. Rinse the rice well then add to the bowl. Mix until everything is just combined.
HOW TO STUFF GRAPE LEAVES
Lay one leaf on a flat surface with the rough side (the veins of the leaves) facing up. The “shiny” side should be facing down. Cut off any stem. Grab enough meat to fill, to your liking. Form in a cigar shape and place in the center of the bottom of the leaf. Fold over the right edge. Fold over the left edge. Start, tightly, rolling away from you. Fold in any edges as you are rolling. If the leaf is too big, just cut off part of the edges. Lay the rolled grape leaf onto a platter and cover with a damp paper towel. Continue to stuff the grape leaves with the remainder of the filling.
Be sure to check out the video I linked above, as it shows you the stuffing and rolling process in great detail.
HOW TO COOK STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES
Line the bottom of a pot (I used this enameled cast iron pot from Lodge) with torn grape leaves. I cannot say this enough, MAKE THE POTATOES! Honestly, I’m not even going to try and describe to you the incredible texture, and flavor of these potatoes. Just make them. Lay a single layer of the thick-cut potatoes on top of the grape leaves. Season with plenty of kosher salt. Pour on the tomatoes. Sprinkle on another dash of kosher salt and black pepper. Top the tomatoes with another layer of torn grape leaves. Fit the stuffed grape leaves on top. Make two layers, if needed. You want them to be very snug in the pot. Touching is a good thing.
Pour in enough chicken stock to cover the grape leaves. Add in the lemon juice. Invert a plate and place on top of the grape leaves. This will help to prevent them from floating to the surface and inevitably, breaking apart. Place lid and bring to a boil. Once to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for at least 90 minutes.
Remove one, and taste test. The rice should be cooked and the grape leaf should be tender. If so, remove from heat and allow to settle for about ten minutes. If not, cook a bit longer. Once fully cooked, place the grape leaves onto a platter to cool. Spoon those fabulous potatoes into a bowl. Pour some of the liquid from the pot onto the potatoes.
TO SERVE STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES
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Our life has changed dramatically in the past few years with the passing of our two goldendoodles, Vegas and Viva. We were lucky enough to have Vegas for five years (totally wish it was longer). Most recently, losing our Viva to a brain tumor in July of 2020. We welcomed our mini goldendoodle 7, almost seven years ago. We just added the amazing Hazel! Of course, I am always posting tons and tons of photos! Be sure to check out my recipe for Pet Bone Broth! This broth is super rich in nutrients and will provide your pet with a multitude of health benefits!
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