Katina's Dolmades with Avgolemono Sauce

Spending time in the kitchen with Katina was always a treat- even though our command of each other’s native language was minimal.  But the language of food never seemed a stumbling block to our time together. After all, cooking is so physical and direct and the expressions of delight easily understood.

 ½         pound              ground beef or lamb (I prefer lamb)

½         medium           yellow onion, minced _about 1/3 cup
1          teaspoon          fresh oregano, minced or ¾ teaspoon dried
1          tablespoon       fresh parsley, minced
1          tablespoon       fresh mint leaves, minced
1          cup                  long-grain rice, uncooked
                                    salt and freshly ground pepper
1          16-ounce jar    brined grape leaves , or fresh if available

16        ounces             chicken stock, preferably homemade


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
            In a large bowl mix together all the ingredients except the broth and grape leaves. If using fresh grape leaves, pick only the most tender and uniformly sized leaves. Rinse each and place them flat in layers in a bamboo steamer basket.  Place the basket above one inch of water in a pan large enough to hold the basket.  Cover and steam the leaves over medium heat until they soften and turn bright green, about 3 minutes.  Rinse the leaves carefully with cold water to stop the cooking process. If you are using canned leaves, rinse off the brine before proceeding. The next step is the same for canned or fresh leaves.

           Separate the leaves, placing them individually on clean towels or wooden boards with the shiny sides face downward and the bottom of leaves toward you. Place approximately one teaspoon  to one half tablespoon (depending on the leaf size) of the rice and meat mixture close to the bottom of each leaf.  Carefully fold the bottom and 2 sides to cover the stuffing, and roll the leaf into a cylinder shape.

          Place the stuffed leaves in an oven-proof casserole dish and cover with several of the remaining grape leaves. Cover completely with stock and place in a preheated 350 degree oven to bake for 1 hour.   The stock should be mostly absorbed and the rice and the leaves tender when the dolmades are done.

          Either carefully pour any remaining liquid out of the pan into a bowl or use a turkey baster to remove it without disturbing the dolmades. Make the sauce and pour over the stuffed leaves or pass the dolmades and lemon sauce separately.. Leftovers will keep better that way.. You may serve them immediately or at room temperature as an appetizer or mezze.

Serves 8. (About 4 dozen dolmades).


Egg Lemon Sauce (Avgolemono Sauce)

3                      egg yolks
1/3       cup      lemon juice, strained
¾         cup      hot broth from the casserole or add more hot chicken broth as needed


In a small nonreactive saucepan, whisk the egg yolks until pale and frothy. Slowly add the lemon juice and whisk for another minute. Place over low heat and very slowly add all of the broth in a steady stream, constantly whisking. Take care not to get the pan and mixture too hot as it will cause the eggs to curdle (scramble). When the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat and pour over the dolmades.