In fear of niching myself under the "comfort asian" sub-type, I am remaining wiht rice, but going greek. I will say that I have never really loved dolmas. They seemed oily with bits of hardened rice inside, all in all confusing. But then I got a greek salad for lunch, and had a fresh and tart dolma. Hooked, I started to research my dolma possibilities.
The first question had to ask myself was vegetarian or with meat? -MEAT
Beef or Lamb? -Beef (Lamb is probably more authentic, but ground lamb from Safeway makes me want to return to question #1 and I was afraid I was going to get into circular reasoning and wander around the store until I got frustrated and walked out -- we've all been there)
I researched two sites, combined the recipes and came up with the following. Dolmas are easy to make, take a bit of time, but are rewarding. They are perfect in size (snack size), a nice balance of meat and protein and vegetables, fall loosely under my dumpling category, and work well in a dolma-avocado-red onion-balsamic vinegar-sandwich (I am sure I just offended some purists with that last statement).
BEEF AND RICE DOLMAS (makes around 30 3" dolmas)
SUMMARY: You will saute the filling and raw soaked rice before stuffing the leaves. Once the leaves are stuffed and rolled, they will be assembled snugly in pots and braised for 45 minutes in liquid. The rice will cook thusly. Alternatively, you can cook these in the oven, which may be a better option depending on your cookware availability (350 degrees for 45 minutes).
WARE: You need good wide stovetop saucepans. If in the oven, have a good pyrex 13x9 is good. If need be you can make do with a smaller one. You will also need a flat plate and weights to pessed the dolmas while they cook. The plates should be slightly smaller than the cookware so they can fit inside.
TOTAL TIME: 3 hours - Active 2 hr, Non-active 50 minutes
- 1 c medium grain rice
- 1 T Olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 lb beef, I used 80/20 meat/fat. You could probably go even leaner.
- 2 palmfuls pine nuts, roughly 1/4 cup
- 1/2 t allspice
- 1 1/3 t cinnamon (I used Vietnamese cinnamon which is STRONG)
- 1.5 palmfuls currants
- 1/2 c chopped parsely
- salt and pepper to taste
- Grape leaves in a jar (at least 30)
- 2-3 c Low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 lemon juice
- Olive oil
1. Soak rice in a bowl of water.
2. Chop and prep onion and parsley.
3. In a large skillet on med-high, saute onion for 3-4 minutes until slightly brown. Add beef and brown on high heat until most of the pink is gone. If your filling looks fatty, drain based on beef fat content.
4. Add pinenuts and currants and continue to saute for 2-3 minutes.
5. Removed from stove and add parsely and drained rice. Salt and pepper to taste. There you have your filling!
6. Fill a clean large bowl with water. Carefully remove your grape leaves from the jar. Unwrap as if you are doing brain surgery, the leaves are rolled up like a cigar and will have a tendency to tear if you are in any way rushed. Place leaves in the water to wash of brine.
7. Once all the leaves are unwrapped, drain water and refill to make sure that the brine is removed.
8. In a clean area (wooden cutting board, countertop) dry off one leaf with a paper towel and set stem side up with the tip facing away from you.
9. Place filling crosswise in front of you - about 2 T. You will roll some crappy ones and learn as you go. The filling should be 2-3 inches in width.
Fold front stem over
Things of note:
- roll as TIGHTLY as possible. When the dolmas cook, they will have a firmer consistency and stand up to cutting and biting. Otherwise they are floppy. Ew.
- If there are tears in the grape leaf position the leaf so that there is a slight overlap.
10. Poor about 1-2T of olive oil in a large saucepan and cover with parsley stems. This is a bed parsley.
11. Pack the dolmas in as tight as possible. You can pack either 1 or two layers, but the layers should be complete.
12. Fill the saucepan (you may use two) with chicken broth until the dolmas are just covered. Poor in lemon juice to taste (about 1/2 c) and 2 T olive oil.
13. Cover the pot with a plate that fits inside the rim, and press down with weights.
14. Bring saucepan to boil and simmer for 45 minutes. (If you are doing the oven thing, bake for 45 minutes at 350 F.)
15. Remove and enjoy! The end.