01 July 2017

Feuilles de vigne farcies à la viande

Welcome to July. Our outdoor thermometer reads 14ºC this morning. That's only about 55ºF. It's supposed to be even chillier tonight. The good news is that the afternoon high temperature yesterday got up to 65ºF.


Since it wasn't too hot to turn on the oven (we weren't really tempted to use the outdoor barbecue grill!) we decided the time was right to make a big batch of dolmas, or stuffed grapevine leaves.



We had all the ingredients, including leaves from the grapevines in our back yard. Those vines produce a lot of pretty leaves but not very many grapes. We make dolmas nearly every year in June.

Here's very green grape leaf. I picked more than 50 of them from the six or seven plants in our yard.


The first step is to blanch the leaves in boiling salted water for 3 or 4 minutes to make them limp. Pliable might be a better word. Then cut off the stems.


I blanched the leaves on Thursday, doing batches of six and using two pans of boiling water. Then I put them in cold water to stop the cooking, drained them, and arranged them in a bowl to keep them in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I made a filling for the leaves. We had 600 grams of what is called « farce fine » in France. It's a mixture of pork and veal, finely ground with seasonings. Plain ground pork or beef would be good too. I added about a cup of rice that I had soaked in cold water, some chopped onion and garlic, herbs (oregano and mint), some lemon juice and zest, and a beaten egg.


The first step in making the stuffed leaves is to spread a leaf out flat on a work surface. Put about a tablespoon of stuffing on the middle of the leaf. In the past, we've made a filling of rice (or millet), herbs, raisins, pine nuts, and spices for dolmas.


Roll the bottom flaps of the leaf over the stuffing, then fold up the sides. Roll the leaf into a little log shape and place it so that the leaf tip is underneath. We both worked on stuffing the leaves so it didn't take very long. Pack the rolled leaves into a pan or baking dish so that they won't come undone as the cook
We had two layers in the pan, and I placed thin slices of lemon over the first layer before putting on the second layer of rolled leaves. Lemon is a very Greek flavor. You could put thin slices of tomato instead if you wanted. Pour in enough chicken broth to cover the leaves and bake them in a slow oven for about an hour, adding enough broth or water to keep them from drying out. And don't let them boil hard.

 Serve them hot, warm, or even cold. See the photo at the top of this post.

28 comments:

  1. That must be delicious. Fortunately, I already had my breakfast so I don't feel too hungry!

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    1. chm.... you ate breakfast too quickly.... you are repeating yourself!

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    2. Sorry, Tim, I had just deleted that duplicate comment. It's a service I perform for CHM. His Apple devices have the blogger hiccups.

      By the way, our central heat just came on. The thermostat is set to 18.5ºC.

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  2. I haven't had breakfast, chm..... so I am now hungry.... I love these....meat or just flavoured rice.
    I could snack on them all day!
    But, I have never had any hot, or warm..... to me these wondrous nibbles are a food of true Summer....
    I once bought some tinned ones.... real Greek ones, too.... but they weren't a patch on freshly made ones!

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  3. I made mine a couple of weeks ago and the grape leaves were already prone to being stringy. This season hasn't done them any favours. First they got frosted so they looked dead, then took ages to recover and grow any leaves at all. By the time they were big enough they were already tough. Plus I made the brine a bit salty, and the rice stuffing didn't cook properly. All in all, a disappointing year for dolmades :(

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    1. The grapes in our yard are planted in shade. That's why they don't produce many (or sometimes any) grapes. But the leaves are tender and very green right now. I didn't notice any stringiness in the leaves we ate at lunchtime yesterday.

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  4. I keep meaning to make these. You've given me the impetus.

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  5. In this recipe, you don't say if you use raw or cooked rice. In another recipe per your link you use cooked rice. Then?

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    1. It was raw rice that I just soaked in cold water for 30 minutes before mixing it in with the meat. When I said "rice that I had soaked in cold water" I thought it was clear that the rice had not been cooked — you wouldn't soak cooked rice. Neither had the meat been pre-cooked. The rice, meat, and onions and all cooked during the hour that the grape leaf roll-ups were in the oven. Here's a recipe similar to what I did but using tarragon rather than oregano and mint. You can use whatever herbs you have or like, or none at all. Follow the recipe for the proportions. I don't think 25 minutes would be enough cooking time. Sixty minutes at low heat is better. And you don't need an oven to make these, because you can cook them on top of the stove at low heat just as well, or in a slow-cooker.

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    2. Yes, it was clear the soaked rice was raw. The reason I asked is that in my excellent rice pudding recipe, you have to soak the rice in milk for an hour before cooking, and I thought it was the same here.

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    3. I wondered about the rice, but assumed it was raw. Do you think muscadine leaves would work? CHM I'm interested in your rice pudding recipe. Would you be willing to share it with us?

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    4. E., about stuffed muscadine leaves, the answer seems to be yes.

      stuffed muscadine leaves

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    5. Hi Evelyn, I'm going to send you an email with the requested recipe that I scanned from the Washington Post circa 1980.

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    6. That muscadine leaf dolma recipe looks yummy. Thanks, Ken.

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  6. I don't usually eat breakfast but this would tempt me. We used to have a Greek Deli near where my husband worked in NY .. At least once a week, dolmas and other goodies were dinner ...

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    1. I never thought of dolmas for breakfast, but why not? Brunch, anyway.

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  7. I picked and blanched a 100 or so leaves over a month ago and now they are in the freezer. This hot weather is the perfect time for dolmathes. Yours look terrific. We eat ours either with an egg and lemon sauce or an oil and lemon dressing

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    1. Do you have them hot, warm, or cold?

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  8. These always remind me of summertime and are one of my favorite foods, along with the traditional Greek salad or real tomatoes, cucumber, feta, black olives and olive oil as dressing.

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  9. i think it's so cool that you use the grape leaves from your local vineyard!! I think the jarred ones have too much citric acid in them!

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    1. I don't know if I've ever tried the leaves in jars. One recipe I read said to soak jarred leaves in cold water for 12 hours before draining, stuffing, and cooking them.

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    2. I don't know if I've ever tried the leaves in jars. One recipe I read said to soak jarred leaves in cold water for 12 hours before draining, stuffing, and cooking them.

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    3. By the way, we don't get leaves from the actual vineyard. We have 6 or 7 grapevines in our own yard, and we use those. We know those haven't been sprayed with insecticide or copper sulfate to ward off mildew.

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  10. Local Alien mentioned freezing the blanched leaves. I freeze mine without blanching and when defrosted they are pliable and soft enough to roll without the bother of all that boiling water.

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    1. That's a good idea. That's what I do with a cabbage when I want to make stuffed cabbage leaves. Freezing makes the leaves pliable. When I blanch the grape leaves, I use two wide, shallow pans, so it doesn't take long to get the water up to the boil. It's been so chilly here for a few days now that we were happy to have the heat of the stove burners and the oven to warm the house a little.

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  11. How do you store the dolmas once prepared? The tinned ones come in an oil of some kind.
    And I wonder if for the meat you could use sausage from the butcher, the loose kind sold by the pound?

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    1. If we were going to keep them for more than a few days, I'd freeze them.

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